East-West Collaboration Tackles Costly Pest

ross abberfield collaboration fruit fly medfly

Fruit flies cost Western Australia’s horticulture industry $10.2 million per annum in lost production and control measures so it’s little wonder scientists, growers and government are investing heavily to tackle the pest once and for all.

Recently invited to view WA’s Sterile Insect Technology (SIT) facilities in Perth and Carnarvon, Victorian Goulburn Murray Valley Regional Fruit Fly Coordinator Ross Abberfield said: “Pests don’t respect state borders; this is a national issue. There is much to be learned from what is happening on either side of the country to manage Queensland Fruit Fly (Q Fly) and the Mediterranean Fruit Fly (Medfly) respectively.”

Hosted by the West Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), Ross also met with Carnarvon grower and community groups, discussing Area Wide Management (AWM) techniques effective against both species.

Since August 2014, DPIRD have worked with the local growers on the ‘Piloting of New Techniques to Control and Eradicate Medfly from Carnarvon’ project.

The project has a strong focus on grower and community engagement to improve on-farm hygiene practises in a bid to reduce Medfly numbers.

Explaining what he saw in WA, Ross said: “Control activities include an area-wide baiting and trapping program and the use of SIT release, which involves rearing of sterilised male Medflies and releasing them into the affected area to mate with the females and cause a population crash.”

The sterile male Medflies are bred and sterilised by x-ray in the South Perth Medfly rearing facility. The flies are then transported to Carnarvon in refrigerated trucks as pupae, which are then placed in specialised towers within a custom-built facility in Carnarvon until they emerge as adults. The adults are fed on sugared water for five days before being prepared for a chilled release into the local plantations via a Medfly blower machine.

The project is currently releasing up to five million sterile males in the region each week and the area is experiencing a significant decrease in the number of wild medflies caught in its trapping grid.

Demonstrating the knowledge exchange also went from East to West, Dr Rosalie McCauley, the Project Manager of the Carnarvon Medfly Eradication Project, said: “Ross provided advice on how we can drive our community engagement to a much higher level to encourage our community and growers to get on-board and eradicate Medfly from Carnarvon.”

Sharing details of the Area Wide Management (AWM) program currently achieving positive results in the Goulburn Murray Valley (GMV), Ross’ address was made in front of departmental staff, representatives of the Carnarvon Growers Association, the Recognised Biosecurity Group, Carnarvon growers, and community groups.

“The key is getting stakeholders to take ownership of the issue by responsibly managing fruit fly on their land and eradicating unmanaged habitat (private, commercial, and government),” he said.

“In the GMV, we combined an intensive community awareness and education campaign, the deployment of Field Officers to manage ‘Hot Spots’ and the large-scale removal of unmanaged Q Fly habitats from private and public lands which has been instrumental in our progress toward achieving an Area of Low Pest Prevalence,” Ross said.

Acknowledging what can be learned from WA, Ross said: “I believe that the wild Q Fly population numbers would decline further if we had a SIT release program similar to Carnarvon in targeted areas in the GMV. This would result in increased quality of our produce and expand our export opportunities.”

The ‘Piloting New Techniques to Control and Eradicate Mediterranean Fruit Fly Project’ has been funded by the Royalties for Regions program, Hort Innovation, and the Carnarvon Growers’ Association.

The Goulburn Murray Valley Queensland Fruit Fly Project is funded by the Victorian Government’s Managing Fruit Fly Regional Grants Program.


If you are involved in the Horticultural Industry and wish to work collaboratively or find out more about managing Mediterranean Fruit Fly and Queensland Fruit Fly, contact:


By |December 12th, 2018|Biosecurity, News, Pests, diseases and weeds|

About the Author:

APAL is an industry representative body and not-for-profit membership organisation that supports Australia’s commercial apple and pear growers.