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AGRICULTURE REPORT - December 18, 2001: Clementines/Medflies - 2001-12-17

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

The United States Department of Agriculture has banned the import of clementine oranges from Spain. The action was taken after live Mediterranean fruit fly larvae were found in some of the imported fruit.

American officials also banned sales of Spanish clementines in seventeen states where the weather is warm enough for the insects to survive. The ban also is in effect in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

The Agriculture Department suspended imports after larvae were found in Spanish clementines in Maryland, North Carolina, Louisiana and California.

Clementine oranges have become increasingly popular in the United States in recent years. Some Americans give the small, seedless fruits as gifts during the holiday season.

The Mediterranean Fruit Fly is also known as the Medfly. It is one of the world’s most destructive threats to agriculture. It leaves its eggs in more than two-hundred different kinds of fruits, nuts and vegetables.

The female fruit fly can produce as many as one-thousand eggs in her lifetime. She usually leaves her eggs in fruit that is still on the tree. She makes holes in the skin of the fruit and leaves two to six eggs in each hole. Larvae develop from the eggs. The larvae eat their way through the fruit, causing it to drop to the ground. The larvae later dig holes in the ground. When they come out, they are adult Medflies.

The Mediterranean fruit fly lives in warm climates. Scientists believe the Medfly developed in west Africa. Long ago, it spread to northern and southern Africa, southern Europe and Asia. The United States has no established Medfly populations. So agriculture officials work hard to prevent the spread of the insects from other countries.

Medflies can destroy a complete crop unless farmers use methods to control the insects as soon as they are known to be in the area.There are several methods to control Medflies. Farmers often spray chemicals to kill the insects. Several other insects can destroy Medfly larvae. Another method of control involves the use of male Medflies that come from eggs treated by radiation. The treated flies cannot reproduce. Farmers also use special traps to control Medflies. These devices use smells to trick the flies into entering the traps.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.