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New species of fruit fly found in Ōtara

Published: 19 February 2019

UPDATED 20 FEBRUARY | Facialis fruit fly response in Otara – Situation Update 1

A large field operation is underway in the Auckland suburb of Otara following the discovery of a single male Facialis fruit fly in a surveillance trap in the area. This is not related to the current Devonport situation.

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) director general Ray Smith says our main focus right now is to determine if the fly is a solitary find, or if it is part of a breeding population in the area.

The Biosecurity New Zealand response field teams are busy today setting further traps in the affected area. If any fruit flies are around, these traps will find them.

In addition, field teams are visiting local properties in Zone A, checking for fruit trees, vegetable gardens and compost facilities that could provide suitable habitat for fruit flies.

They are also talking to local businesses, churches and residents and providing information about the controls and how they can support the response.

“We have a good understanding of the breadth of ethnicities in the Otara community and are working to develop multi-language leaflets to ensure the community knows what they need do to,” says Ray Smith.

Fruit and vegetable samples are being taken from home gardens to check for fruit fly infestation.

A legal Controlled Area has been placed on the suburb restricting the movement of certain fruit and vegetables from the area.

Full details of the Controlled Area and the requirements is at biosecurity.govt.nz/fruitfly

Plans are in place to have Biosecurity New Zealand response field teams on the ground at the Otara Flea Market (which is outside of the controlled area) on Saturday handing out leaflets.

If local people in Otara think they have seen signs of this fruit fly or found insect eggs or larvae inside fruit or vegetables, please call the response team on 0800 80 99 66.

The fruit fly response at a glance:

  • More than seventy seven Biosecurity New Zealand staff working from Head Office across all responses
  • A field crew is working in Otara and this number is expanding by the hour.
  • Leaflets continue to be distributed in the affected area.
  • Biosecurity New Zealand is busy having leaflets translated into a number of languages including Samoan, Tongan, Chinese, Cook Island Maori, Fijian and Hindi.
  • Signs have been put on key arterial roads out of Otara.
  • Bins are being organised for the area so local people can safely dispose of fruit and vegetable waste.

Original Story - 19 February

The Ministry for Primary Industries has today (19 February) confirmed a second type of fruit fly, (Bactrocera facialis - the “facialis fruit fly”) has been found in a surveillance trap in the suburb of Ōtara.

This fly is a different species to the Queensland fruit fly and the detection is not related to the current Devonport situation.

The solitary male fly was formally identified late yesterday. No further facialis fruit flies have been found and, at this stage, there is no indication there is an incursion of facialis here.

Ministry for Primary Industries Director General Ray Smith says facialis is native to Tonga where it badly affects crops of capsicum and chilli, but appears to be less harmful to other fruit and vegetables. It is a tropical fruit fly species so New Zealand’s climate may not provide an ideal home for it.

“As with the fruit fly in Devonport, we need to determine if it’s a lone specimen or if there’s a population of these flies in the area. 

“To do this, we’re setting more traps in the area around the find. And while we look for more flies, we have restricted the movement of fruit and vegetables to stop the spread of any other facialis fruit flies that may be out there,” Mr Smith says.

“We are progressively ramping-up activities in the area and will be working closely with the local community.”

Biosecurity New Zealand (a division of MPI) has declared a Controlled Area around the location where the facialis fly was trapped.

Residents in the Ōtara area can find full information about what they need to do at: biosecurity.govt.nz/fruitfly 

The restrictions are the same as with the Devonport Queensland fruit fly - whole fresh fruit and vegetables (except for leafy vegetables and root vegetables) cannot be moved outside of the A Zone of the Controlled Area.

This is the area that extends 200m out from where the fly was found. Home-grown vegetables cannot be moved out of a wider B Zone.

Detailed maps of the controlled area and a full description of the boundaries, and full information about the rules are at biosecurity.govt.nz/fruitfly 

If local people believe they have seen signs of this fruit fly or found larvae (like white grains of rice) in fruit, they should call the response team on 0800 80 99 66.

Mr Smith says if there are no further detections, the operation is expected to last two to three weeks.

Field crews are busy today setting up a field HQ and placing traps. Work will proceed in the next couple of days installing road signs and distributing other information materials to the public. 

Biosecurity New Zealand has commenced an investigation into how the fruit flies have entered the country.

Mr Smith says the separate and unrelated Ōtara and Devonport detections are evidence of the value of a multi-layered biosecurity system.

“Our border controls are extremely tight and effective and they are backed up by an active surveillance system. With these latest two detections that system has put us in the best possible position to respond quickly and ensure New Zealand remains free of these pests.

“That said, it is important we continue to learn and evolve our biosecurity system.  A review of our cargo pathway was initiated in January and is underway. I have now asked Biosecurity New Zealand to commission an independent assessment of the air passenger and cruise pathways.”

Auckland Council has received a request for assistance from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to this response.

As with the response last week to the discovery of a single Queensland fruit fly in Devonport, the response to the Ōtara find is being led by MPI.

Auckland Council staff will be assisting with community engagement and field work including with ground surveys, fruit collection and trap monitoring.

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