Medfly Invasion Crisis in California: What Should Be Done?

During the initial throes of the Mediterranean fruit fly invasion in California, protesters disagreeing with the California Department of Food and Agriculture's eradication procedures and policies used to sing the catchy tune, "There Ain't No Bugs on Me," the work of Jerry Garcia and David Grisman.

Oh, there ain't no bugs on me
There ain't no bugs on me
There may be bugs on some of you mugs
But there ain't no bugs on me

You can hear it on YouTube.

UC Davis distinguished professor James R. Carey of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, drew national news media coverage in 1991 when he declared that the medflies are "established" here, that the "recurring outbreaks" are not caused by tourists continually bringing infested fruit to California in their airline baggage. 

Today Carey says that California's fruit fly invasion is in "crisis mode."

The professor will present a Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar on "California's Fruit Fly Invasion Crisis" at 4:10 p.m., Monday, June 3 in Room 122 of Briggs Hall. It also will be on Zoom. The Zoom link: 5882849672.

"After seven decades of near-continuous outbreaks in scores of California cities, tephritid fruit fly invasions (e.g., Mediterranean, oriental, peach, and Mexican fruit flies) are reaching critical mass, with many of the annual eradication programs morphing into below-the-radar, never-ending fruit fly control programs," Carey says in his abstract. "Permanent establishment of any one of these tropical species has the potential to shut down the multi-billion dollar domestic and foreign markets for hundreds of California fruit and vegetable crops."

"I will present an overview of the long-developing crisis, discuss lessons learned from analysis of fruit fly detection databases, and argue that, in order to have any chance at stemming this ever-rising tide, CDFA  and the USDA urgently needs to switch from their historic, ad hoc eradication strategy to a new one that is evidence-based and far more scientific."

Carey served on the CDFA's Medfly Scientific Advisory Panel from 1987-1994, testified to the California Legislature "Committee of the Whole" in 1990 on the Medfly Crisis in California, and authored the paper "Establishment of the Mediterranean Fruit Fly in California" (1991, Science 258, 457).

Carey is a fellow of four professional societies: the Entomological Society of America, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Gerontological Society of America. He is former director (2003-13) of a 11-university consortium funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIH/P01) on the evolutionary ecology of lifespan.