If you are a Californian who has seen insects falling through the sky, you may now have an explanation.
SFGATE reports that the city of Los Angeles has deployed aircraft to dump hundreds of thousands of insects, all marked with a distinct purple dye, in an effort to disrupt the rapidly growing population of wild Mediterranean fruit flies.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will drop around 2.25 million sterilized male insects from above the city’s Leimert Park neighborhood.
Officials have quarantined a 69-mile area encompassing parts of Culver City and south and central Los Angeles as they attempt to contain the solution.
The quarantine will affect producers, distributors, and fruit sellers in the region. Home gardeners are advised to consume their produce where it grows and avoid transporting it.
According to the CDFA, Mediterranean fruit flies pose a threat to over 250 varieties of fruits and vegetables.
They cause damage by depositing eggs that hatch into larvae, rendering the produce inedible.
Should the fruit fly population get out of hand, the CDFA estimates it will cost the state a staggering $1.8 billion per year.
Ken Pellman of the Los Angeles County Agriculture Department told SFGATE said that once marked with their special dye, the flies are loaded onto a specialized aircraft. After reaching the required altitude they are “just released out of the bottom of the cabin.”
It remains unclear how the fruit fly arrived into Southern California, although the current suspicion is that entered via uninspected produce.
Meet the newest resident of Los Angeles, the Mediterranean fruit fly. Officials are, however, combating this invasive species, not with pesticides, but with love, or more accurately, lack of procreation! pic.twitter.com/ke8C9MRCz4
— Los Angeles Magazine (@LAmag) October 27, 2023
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Mediterranean fruit fly, otherwise known as Ceratitis capitata or Medfly, is considered the “most important agricultural pest in the world.”
“The Mediterranean fruit fly is a threat to many fruits and vegetables,” the department states on its website. “The Medfly has spread throughout the Mediterranean region, southern Europe, the Middle East, Western Australia, South and Central America and Hawaii.”
“The first of numerous U.S. mainland infestations occurred in Florida in 1929,” it continues. “It has been recorded infesting a wide range of commercial and garden fruits, nuts and vegetables, including apple, avocado, bell pepper, citrus, melon, peach, plum and tomato.”