Alien fruit fly sparks shutdown as authorities race to control spread

A large portion of Los Angeles County has been placed under quarantine after an invasive fruit fly was detected.

Produce in a 79 square mile area in southern California has been quarantined after the Tau fly, a species native to southeast Asia, was discovered last week.

About 20 of the flies were discovered in Stevenson Ranch, an unincorporated town just outside of Santa Clarita, about 30 miles north of the city of Los Angeles.

The quarantine was first declared in the area on July 25 – making it the first Tau fly quarantine in the Western Hemisphere.

Until the quarantine is lifted, residents in the area are forbidden from removing any fruits or vegetables from their homes.

If residents need to dispose of any produce, they instead have to double-wrap it in plastic bags and placed in a special bin.

The tiny pests grow to only 7mm in length. They can easily be identified by the their yellow bodies marked with dark spots.

The California Department of Agriculture called Tau flies a ‘serious pest for agriculture and natural resources’.

Tau flies deposit their eggs inside fruit, including important southern California crops like avocado, citrus, tomatoes, and peppers.

‘The adult female lays eggs in host fruit and the larvae tunnel through and feed in this fruit,’ the Department of Agriculture said. ‘Fruit that has been attacked may be unfit for consumption due to this damage and as a result of decay-producing organisms that enter, leaving the interior of the fruit a rotten mass.’

According to the Department of Agriculture, a single Tau fly can lay about 400 eggs in her lifetime. These eggs can hatch just two days later.

It is currently unclear how the flies got to California. Officials believe they could have been brought to the state on uninspected produce.

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