Millions of Dyed Fruit Flies Harvested at Military Base to be Dropped Over Los Angeles

A Los Angeles neighborhood is under quarantine due to an invasive species of Asian fruit flies — and California is gearing up to drop millions of fruit flies on them to combat the infestation.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture quarantined 69 square miles of the Los Angeles area in July, including parts of downtown and South L.A., Hyde Park, Baldwin Hills, Culver City, Inglewood, Pico-Robertson, and Mid-Wilshire.

According to a report from the SFGate, “If you live in Los Angeles and look up, there’s a chance you might see them: small twin-engine airplanes circling over the city, unleashing hundreds of thousands of insects marked with a unique purple dye. And though it might sound unusual, it will likely become a common sight.”

The plan is to introduce sterile males to act as birth control.

“Jay Van Rein, a spokesperson for the CDFA, told SFGATE that the agency plans to unleash 250,000 sterile male fruit flies per square mile in a 9-square-mile region near the infestation site every week — and it could take six months, if not longer, to fully eradicate the current population.”

The report continues, “Ken Pellman, a press representative for the Los Angeles County Agriculture Department, said that the bugs, which are marked with a special purple dye, are first harvested at a military base in Los Alamitos and then loaded onto an airplane. Then, once the plane reaches liftoff, ‘they’re just released out of the bottom of the cabin,’ he told SFGATE over the phone.”

“It’s quite an interesting operation down there,” he said.

People in the quarantine area have been advised not to move any fruits or vegetables from their property and double bag any that they throw away.

If the insects are not contained, it is estimated that they could unleash $1.8 billion in damage annually to agriculture in the state.


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