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Editorial: Fruit flies

A season that’s ripe for the picking — that’s summer here in the Pioneer Valley, both figuratively and literally.

And one of the things that makes that so is that this is the time of year that locally grown fruit, especially the group that falls into the berry family, ripens, is picked and finds its way to local tables.

You’ll get no argument from most people that there’s a real difference between the berries that are brought in from elsewhere like California, Florida or Central or South America and what you’re able to get in and around Franklin County.

Unfortunately, the availability of such fruit is short-lived. Therefore, when the fruit comes, you want to be able to take advantage of it.

Locals aren’t alone in having a taste for these berries ... tourists love to take containers home with them.

But there’s a particular newcomer to the area that could be a real spoiler.

It’s a particular type of fruit fly from Asia — the spotted winged drosophila — that’s been turning up lately in our fruit. Having made a first appearance in California about five years ago, this pest has been traveling quickly — making its way to Florida and then up the East Coast on the strong winds of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

“It’s a nightmare,” Fran Sobieski, a Whately berry farmer, told The Recorder. “Last year, it didn’t wipe us out completely, but it made it really rough. Before, the main problem was birds. Now they’re number two.”

Sobieski isn’t the only farmer to express frustration with the arrival of this particular pest. “They multiply by the gazillions,” said Timothy Nourse of Nourse Farms.

It’s the ripe fruit that’s the target for these flies, they get inside, and then lay their eggs.

Area farmers are doing their best to battle this new pest using a variety of methods, from careful pruning to pesticides.

And what can the consumer do? For pick-your-own fans, it’s time to get out there and fend off this competition for ripe fruit by getting to it first.

Don’t let the berry season end on a sour note for our farmers or yourself.

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