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Fruit fly quarantine in effect for 89 square miles near Pasadena

August 10, 2010 |  3:22 pm

State officials have established an 89-square-mile agricultural quarantine area in Los Angeles County after invasive oriental fruit flies were found in Pasadena, they announced Tuesday.

The quarantine means backyard gardeners cannot move plants from their property and must eat their produce at home.

The area under quarantine is bordered by Figueroa Street on the west, Interstate 10 on the south, Big Santa Anita Wash to the east and the San Gabriel Mountain foothills on the north.

If restrictions by the state Department of Food and Agriculture are not followed, the infestation could spread to other areas of the county, damaging crops and requiring increased use of pesticides, officials said.

“This will protect their fellow gardeners and help ensure that the infestation will not spread to nearby areas where it could affect California’s food supply,” Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura said in a statement.

The oriental fruit fly, classified as an exotic pest, was detected in traps in several locations in the Pasadena and San Marino area. The flies, which are widespread in southern Asia and Hawaii, typically arrive in the U.S. mainland by “hitchhiking” on fruit brought back by travelers.

If the flies became established in California, commercial and residential growers would face crop losses that could cost them hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Native plants could suffer as farmers would use more pesticides to curb the damage.

Agriculture officials last month placed a 79-square-mile area of Sacramento and Placer counties under quarantine.

In L.A. County, crews are trying to eradicate the flies by posting bait stations with pesticides on utility poles. Male flies are attracted to the mixture and die after eating it.

For more information, see the Department of Agriculture's website or call the state Pest Hotline at (800) 491-1899.

-- Tony Barboza