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Associated Press, Published August 08 2013

Crop-damaging fruit pest found in North Dakota

BISMARCK, N.D. — A pest that feeds on fresh fruit has been found in North Dakota for the first time, officials said.

The spotted-wing drosophila was found in cherries from the Carrington Research Extension Center in eastern North Dakota's Foster County. The North Dakota State University Plant Diagnostic Laboratory in Fargo found larvae and one adult female in the fruit.

"This insect is capable of causing serious damage, and growers and gardeners should be on the lookout for the larvae in seemingly healthy fruits," Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said Thursday. "It can be confused with the common fruit fly, but (it) prefers fresh fruit while the fruit fly prefers rotting fruit."

The spotted-wing drosophila is about 3 millimeters long, yellowish brown in color with prominent red eyes. Males have dark spots on their wing tips. The pest is native to Asia. It was first found in the U.S. in 2008 in California, and has since spread to other parts of the country. It was first detected in Minnesota last summer.

North Dakota has other fruit pests, such as the common fruit fly, but the spotted-wing drosophila is the first real threat to healthy fruit, said Janet Knodel, extension entomologist at NDSU. It does not fly long distances and likely was brought into the state on a shipment of fruit from another infested area.

"Unfortunately, it's being moved around by accidental introduction by man," she said.

North Dakota is not a major fruit-producing state, but Knodel said the new pest could be a problem for individual growers and the farmers market community.

"We have a young grape industry that's just getting going, and a lot of homeowners that grow raspberries and strawberries and fruit trees," she said.

There are still a lot of unknowns with the fly, including whether they can survive a North Dakota winter, and whether they are present in any other areas of the state, Knodel said. Growers should use fruit fly traps to monitor for them, and should follow recommended insecticide spraying if they are found, she said.

"Sanitation is really important," she added. "It's strongly recommended to collect and destroy any unharvested or damaged fruit, then put it in a plastic bag and bury it 2 feet deep or burn it."

Goehring said growers who find an abundance of small, white maggots in what were apparently fresh fruits at the time of harvest should contact the state Agriculture Department or NDSU Extension Entomology.