There’s little more disappointing than opening a gorgeous fruit to find it infested with fruit fly maggots! Fruit fly is a serious agricultural pest in our part of the world, and summer is when they’re in full swing. There’s over 250 species of fruit fly in Australia, but thankfully only a handful damage food crops. The worst offender in our region is the Queensland fruit fly.
For the most part, our strategy for dealing with fruit fly is to grow trees that have a high resistance to fruit fly in our climate. Bananas, paw paw, cherimoyas, babaco, Atherton raspberry and many more fruit trees generally don’t get fruit fly in our area (for a full list see details in our Illawarra Edible Garden Guide!). We find in our coastal climate the trees fruit fly love the most are the stonefruits – plums, peaches, nectarines and apricots. Guavas and fejoas are also quite susceptible. Our neighbours have a peach tree which is badly infested each year, with all the fruit ruined by fruit fly.
Stonefruit are just delicious, and grow so well in our climate. So the way we manage to grow them organically is by keeping dwarf varieties in a pot. This way it’s easy to bag individual fruit with fruit fly exclusion bags when they are very young. As our trees grow, next summer we plan on netting the whole tree in the pot, to prevent fruit fly getting in. Netting trees that are growing in the garden, rather than being kept to dwarf size in a pot, is much more challenging and high maintenance – hence off the cards for us in our low maintenance garden! In the same way, rather than grow large tomatoes which can be highly susceptible to fruit fly, we grow small cherry tomatoes in the veggie patch as they’re much more resistant and generally don’t require bagging for protection.
The Victorian Department of Primary Industries recommends to minimise fruit fly infestations that backyard gardeners:
- Prune trees to a height which makes fruit picking easy
- Remove fruit as it ripens
- Don’t place infected fruit directly in your compost bin, worm farm or garbage bin
- Collect and dispose of infected fallen fruit by sealing fruit in a bag and leaving it in the sun for 5-7 days or placing it in the freezer.
- Remove unwanted trees from your garden (and we would add, replace them with fruit trees that are not so susceptible to fruit fly!)
There’s also another good website at http://preventfruitfly.com.au/ which has info for backyard gardeners about fruit fly and control strategies.
We usually dispose of any infested fruits by freezing them. After freezing we add them to our compost bin.
Do you get fruit fly where you are? How do you manage gardening organically with this cheeky pest?