The Mediterranean Fruit Fly or Medfly is considered one of the world’s most destructive pests. For the most part, Belize has managed to maintain its status as being Medfly free. Roberto Pantaleon is the Executive Director of the Medfly Program for the United States Department of Agriculture. He told Love News they have been working closely with Belize’s Ministry of Agriculture to keep the Medfly under control.
“So we work with the Ministry of Agriculture in Belize through BAHA for Fruit Fly detection. It’s a network of many traps in the country and they get checked frequently and if we detect; it’s done by BAHA. If they detect a fruit fly they automatically start an eradication program. It’s to try to control depending on the level of infestation so we are committed to doing that and every year we sign an agreement. We have a general agreement but every year we sign a work plan with the Belize Minister of Agriculture to keep this program running, that’s why Mr. Blanco works here at the US Embassy at his station but he works for the US Department of Agriculture and he together with BAHA, they work together for this program and make sure that the traps are in place and the traps are checked frequently and then if a fly is detected then they start the process of trying to eradicate. The most important part is to keep Belize free of the pest.”
Pantaleon said the public needs to be aware that they also have a part to play in keeping the country free of the pest.
“The main factor here is the people moving infested fruit from one place to another because the fly doesn’t go far away, maybe a mile or so no more than that but the fly moves great distance when people move infested fruit from places that are infested to places that are not. So that is why the most important part is to talk to the people and discourage them from bringing fruits into the country or if you bring fruits into the country declare them at the airport when you find the local agriculture authority and then they will know if the fruit that you are bringing is a host or not or if the fruit is infested or not and they will take measures there at the port of entry and that will prevent all of this. Always know though that you have borders and people move across them so that is why there is a network of fruit fly traps all over and then automatically when one is detected that triggers it.”
Crispin Blanco is the representative for the United States Department of Agriculture in Belize. He spoke of what is being done to keep the Medfly under control.
“We find one with what we call a delimitation survey, we take one square kilometer and we put a number of traps in that space to see if there are more and then every week we come back to see if there is more, if there is more than we know that it is an outbreak and we do the spraying. Fruit stripping is what we call it all the fruit trees we bring down all the fruit and dump it and bury it to get rid of everything, the eggs the larvae that is one of the ways we control it. If we find one female we have the capacity, we can do where it is a male or a female, we can know whether it has been mating or not so if it is a female and we know it has mated then we know that there is another one out there so if its an outbreak we start spraying and doing an eradication and other measures that are needed. So depending on what we find we have protocols in place to find out what to do.”
“So when is quarantine in place?”
“A quarantine is when we find a fly and then we come back in a week and there is more and more so that gives us an indication that there is a big outbreak and that a big area is already infested and then we decide to quarantine the area so that the fly doesn’t move out of that area. I think there was one in 2013 in Hopkins and then another on in Silk Grass but we do not want to do that; with the traps we have in place hopefully we can do that so as soon as it comes out the first flies that come out we pick it up and deal with it and so we don’t have to go to the guarantee stages but the quarantine stage is also a mechanism of control because we don’t want it to spread from this part of the country to the other part of the country.”
Pantaleon is responsible for the project which covers Belize along with portions of Mexico and Guatemala.