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Look out for fruit fly after La Nina summer

Gabriel Polychronis and Alexandra Laskie, February 18, 2021 6:45PM The Advertiser

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PIRSA biosecurity officers Joshua Dowsett and Saurin Barot check a fruit tree. Picture: Keryn Stevens media_cameraPIRSA biosecurity officers Joshua Dowsett and Saurin Barot check a fruit tree. Picture: Keryn Stevens


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Kids are banned from taking fruit to school and residents are being urged to strip their trees of fruit in two suburbs of Adelaide battling fruit fly outbreaks.

The suburbs of Prospect and Stepney are being targeted by environmental staff in a big effort to get rid of the insect pests.

The blitz* follows fruit fly outbreaks in December and January in South Australia’s Riverland. In early February, Agriculture Victoria reported fruit fly outbreaks around the central Victorian towns of Harcourt — known for its apple orchards — and nearby Castlemaine.

Several species of fruit fly are serious pests that can infest fruit and fruiting vegetables. The La Nina weather pattern this summer means conditions in southern states are more like those in Queensland, which is good news for fruit fly and other insect pests and bad news for fruit growers.

media_cameraBe on the lookout for fruit fly. Though there are many different species, some can cause major damage to fruit crops.

Orange overall-wearing crews from the Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA) were to begin doorknocking around 1500 properties in Prospect and Stepney on Thursday.

SA Primary Industries Minister David Basham said there has been a “steep rise” in fruit fly detections in Prospect and Stepney.

“In an effort to reduce the risk of fruit fly spreading further, we are asking residents to pick all their ripe summer fruit and vegetables from trees and plants as soon as possible,” Mr Basham said.

“Our authorised PIRSA staff will be seeking entry to properties to assist in removing at-risk produce.”

Fruit fly - stripping trees media_cameraPIRSA biosecurity officers Jye Jarrad and Joshua Dowsett emptying potentially infested fruit into a bin for removal. Picture: Keryn Stevens

People who are not home will be left letters with information about the emergency operation and how to contact PIRSA staff to arrange access to properties.

“We cannot let this pest take hold – we have to get the fruit before the fruit fly does,” Mr Basham said.

There are nine active outbreaks of Mediterranean fruit fly and one Queensland fruit fly outbreak across metropolitan Adelaide.

Crews are also battling fruit fly outbreaks in the Riverland.

Tough restrictions on the movement of fruit will remain in place until May 5. This includes a ban on fruit in school lunch boxes for people who live in outbreak areas.

School lunchboxes - fruit fly media_cameraIngrid Cother of Torrensville, SA, with her children Peter, 12, Sophia, 18 and Hamish, 16, who had to take veggies instead of fruit to school at the beginning of term in an effort to control a fruit fly outbreak in their suburb. Picture: Tom Huntley

PIRSA has divided suburbs into three colours: red, yellow and green.

People living in red areas are unable to take fruit away from their property after it has been purchased from a shop or picked from the garden.

A detailed map of outbreak areas and quarantine zones is available on the PIRSA website.

Mr Basham said the public had been “extremely helpful” in the fight against fruit fly.

Honeydew, rockmelon, watermelon and pineapple are not at risk to fruit fly and can be moved freely, as well as dried, frozen, canned or processed fruits.

The genius of the fruit fly

Queensland fruit fly, Australian plague locusts and fall army worm have all been detected more frequently or for the first time this year following warm, humid and wet weather across Victoria.

Agriculture Victoria’s plant pests and disease manager Chris Pittock said the La Nina event has provided ideal conditions for many insects to spread.

“We’re seeing an increase in insect activity in Victoria this season, possibly due to the La Nina weather event.

“All growers are encouraged to be on the lookout for new and unusual pests which may be observed due to the unusual climatic conditions,” he said.

The higher rainfall has provided lots of feed for insects and an ideal environment for breeding.

Australian plague locusts have been increasingly noticeable over summer. Agriculture Victoria is currently monitoring sightings that have so far been contained.

If left unmanaged, locust swarms can damage pastures and crops.

In an alarming development for the horticulture and cropping industries, the highly invasive caterpillar fall army worm was detected in Victoria for the first time last month. The pest, which is native to the tropics in the Americas, was first identified in Australia in January last year and has already become established.

If you see what you think could be fruit fly in fruit, do not take the fruit to another location and seek advice from your local council or, in South Australia, visit


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  1. Why are lunch boxes mentioned?
  2. What has the weather got to do with fruit fly?
  3. What is the name of the weather system that has brought warm, wet weather to southern states?
  4. What does PIRSA stand for?
  5. What three insect pests are mentioned in this story?


1. Write a jingle
A jingle is a type of short song that is used in advertisements. Their purpose is to persuade and they are written in a way that makes them easy to remember or stick in your mind.

Write the words for a jingle that will help people in the areas affected by fruit fly understand why it is so important to get rid of all their fruit safely.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science

2. Extension
Your task is to create a resource that will help other kids understand how La Nina is helping dangerous insects to spread. You are not allowed to use any words.

Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Geography, Critical and Creative Thinking

Opener Operation
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight all the openers you can find in blue. Discuss if they are powerful and varied openers or not. Why do you think the journalists have used a mix of simple and power openers? Would you change any, and why?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you grow fruit in your backyard? Have you checked for fruit fly?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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