Invasive Insect Targeting New England Raspberry Crops

pho-tog / Flickr

This nasty little invader is infesting the region's raspberry crops.

Here’s an eye-catching quote from, “‘These guys will go for even underripe [fruit], and they look a little bit different – they have devilish red eyes,’ Johnson said. ‘And the males have a black spot on their wings.’'”

That quote comes from Tom Johnson, an organic raspberry farmer at Silverleaf Farm in Concord, Massachusetts.  And while you could be forgiven for thinking he was describing something out of “The Mothman Prophecies,” the bug he’s talking about is much, much smaller.  It’s the spotted wing drosophila, an invasive fruit fly from Asia.  Boston Globe reporter Carolyn Johnson reports the pest made landfall on the West Coast back in 2008.  And it likes “soft fruits, such as berries and grapes.”

Apparently the fruit fly’s been discovered in Massachusetts, which Johnson (the reporter, not the farmer) notes is ranked 10th in the nation for raspberry production.  And  New Hampshire scientists

Pablo Montt / Flickr

An invasive species has been harrassing raspberry farmers across the country. And now it's here.

found it here earlier this month,

“’This critter is something we’ve been watching for,’ said Alan Eaton, extension specialist in entomology at the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, who said the fly’s presence was confirmed in New Hampshire Sept. 6. Eaton said this fly is particularly aggressive: The fruit flies most people are accustomed to infest fruit that is overripe, needing cracks or rot spots to get going. The female SWD, in contrast, can lay its eggs underneath the skin of the fruit, infesting it earlier.”

The bug’s not something that can hurt people, but it can do serious damage to soft fruit crops.  Although the Globe didn’t report on what New Hampshire farmers are doing to try to stop the spreading fruit fly population, it’s probably not too far off from what Massachusetts growers are doing: Picking overripe fruit immediately, and maintaining diligent picking regimens.

What this could do to raspberry crops at this point in the season–and fruit prices–remains to be seen.


About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »