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It’s Fruit Fly Season (each Fall)

2 images side by side of a fruit flyJim Dill, a pest management specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, spoke with the Bangor Daily News about fruit flies and what to do when they invade your kitchen. Fruit flies, also known as vinegar flies, are attracted to overripe fruits as well as yeast and cider-laden products, Dill said. At this time of year, when an abundance of fruits are in season locally, Dill said the population of fruit flies in the environment spikes. The flies make it into homes via the overripe fruit itself or through an open door or window, the BDN reported. “That bowl of apples might look good sitting on the counter this time of year, but if they get a little soft or get a bruise on them, it doesn’t take much [to attract fruit flies],” he said. While it’s “almost impossible” to prevent fruit flies from getting into your home, according to Dill, you can stop the flies from taking over your kitchen space by covering your trash and keeping all produce in the refrigerator or covered. Once inside, the only way to deal with fruit flies is to “trap them out,” Dill said, by keeping items they are attracted to out of reach and using homemade solutions, such as apple cider vinegar in the bottom of a bottle, to capture and kill the pests.

Male and Female spotted wing drosophila

Male (left) and Female (right) Spotted Wing Drosophila, photo by Griffin Dill. Actual size: 2-3 mm.

The Bangor Daily News also spoke with David Handley, a University of Maine Cooperative Extension specialist of vegetables and small fruits, for an article about the invasive spotted-wing drosophila’s harmful effects on late-season berries. With warm weather prolonging the viability of raspberries and strawberries, the high populations of spotted-wing drosophila being detected could ravish the berries before farmers get to them, according to Handley. While the common fruit fly uses decomposing skin of overripe fruit to lay its larvae and multiply within the fruit, the spotted-wing drosophila is able to pierce the skin of soft-skinned berries that haven’t fully ripened yet and lay eggs within the fruit, Handley said. “When you as a farmer go to pick your fruit, even though it’s barely ripe, it is turning to goo. The reason it has turned to goo is because the larvae in there have started to hatch and are feasting on the fruit,” Handley said. “Your fruit starts to melt away from the inside out.” Since the flies have only been detected in Maine in recent years, Handley said the problems they cause have “really changed the game” in terms of late-season berries. With the spotted-wing drosophila population normally building in August, early berries are generally safe, the article states. Mainebiz also cited the BDN report.

Browntail Moth Sightings

Mainers, have you seen fat, fuzzy white moths around your lights over the past three to four weeks? The Maine Forest Service (MFS), Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry would like your help in tracking the moth flight: News Release and Form for Reporting Moth Sightings

For more information on Browntail Moth, please visit MFS’ Browntail Moth information page.

Eliminate Browntail Caterpillars Now! (February)

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, is informing people that February is an ideal time to be looking for webbed-together leaves (housing overwintering browntail moth caterpillars) at the tips of apple, crab apple, plum and oak tree branches.  If you find any of them, clip them out and submerge them in a bucket of soapy water; do not just clip them and leave them on the ground, as the caterpillars may still survive and find their way back to the trees in the spring when they become active and hungry again.

View the News Release (with helpful photos and links) here (


Springtails Springing Into Action

Dissecting scope photo of a red-colored springtailCheck out our ‘Bug of the Week‘ to learn about the extremely small but fascinating and peculiar little red-colored critters (and some of their relatives) that people across the state have been noticing lately: springtails!

What Home Gardeners Need to Know about Spotted Wing Drosophila

Male and Female spotted wing drosophila

Male (left) and Female (right) Spotted Wing Drosophila, photo by Griffin Dill. Actual size: 2-3 mm.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) is a new insect pest that can infest berries and other soft fruit that ripen from mid-summer through fall, including day-neutral (everbearing) strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. This is a small fruit fly, similar to the type that hovers around the over-ripe bananas in your kitchen. However, unlike other fruit fly species, spotted wing drosophila will lay its eggs in fruit before it ripens, causing the fruit to be contaminated with small white maggots just as it is ready to pick. Infested fruit quickly softens and has no shelf life.

Spotted wing drosophila recently came into the U.S. from northern Asia, and has infested berry crops from California to Maine over the past three years. Each female fly can lay hundreds of eggs, and a new generation can be completed in less than two weeks. Thus, millions of flies can be present soon after the introduction of just a few into a field. This makes spotted wing drosophila very difficult to control, and frequently repeated insecticide sprays (1 to 2 times per week) may be needed to prevent infestations once the insect is present in a field.

Spotted winged drosophila can successfully overwinter in Maine, although it may not build up to damaging levels until late in the summer. Keeping fields clean of over-ripe and rotten fruit can reduce the incidence of this insect. Good pruning to keep plants open can also reduce drosophila populations, because they prefer a shady, humid environment. Covering small plantings with a fine screen mesh can provide a barrier to keep the flies away from developing fruit. The mesh size must be no larger than one millimeter to be effective.

Spotted Wing Drosophila Trap

Spotted Wing Drosophila Trap, photo by David Handley

Traps for spotted wing drosophila are easy to make and may catch lots of the flies, but they may not be effective in keeping all flies out of the fruit. A red plastic 16 to 18-ounce cup with a lid and about 20 holes, 1/8” in diameter, drilled up near the rim will make a good trap. Leave one side of the cup with no holes so that liquid can be poured in and out. Bait the trap with about 4 ounces of apple cider vinegar and place it near the planting in a cool, shady area just a foot or so off the ground. Empty and re-bait the trap weekly, but do not pour the old bait on the ground near the trap. Traps are mostly used to monitor for the presence of spotted wing drosophila. Other species will also be attracted to the bait, so you must be able to properly identify the species. Several fact sheets are available online to help with identification. Using traps to control the flies has not proven highly effective or practical. Traps need to be placed no more than 20 feet apart within each plant row in order to catch enough flies to reduce injury to the fruit.

Insecticides that can provide control of drosophila include spinosad, pyrethrum, and malathion. If you choose to use an insecticide, look for a product that contains one of these ingredients and is approved for use on the crop you are trying to protect. Follow all product label instructions and precautions. Applications should begin when spotted wing drosophila is known to be active in the vicinity and the fruit has started to color. Spraying once weekly may provide adequate control, but tightening the spray schedule to every 3 to 5 days may be necessary under heavy infestations.

For information on identifying spotted wing drosophila and making your own monitoring traps, visit Penn State’s Spotted Wing Drosophila website.

Garland, Dill Talk about Pest Management on WVII

University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s pest management specialist James Dill and horticulturist Kate Garland spoke with WVII (Channel 7) for the latest installment of its “Backyard Gardener” series. Garland and Dill gave tips on management of beetles.

Press Herald Interviews Handley, Kirby on Garden Insects

The Portland Press Herald spoke with David Handley, a vegetable and small-fruit specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Monmouth, and Clay Kirby, an insect diagnostician with the UMaine Cooperative Extension in Orono, about bugs in the garden. The pair spoke about this season’s likely pests.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Alert

a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) adult, with labels pointing out the rounded shoulders it has, as well as the white bands that it has on the antennae -- the white bands stretch across the gap between the two outermost segments of the antennae A live specimen of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (often abbreviated as BMSB) was captured in Old Town on Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 (specimen is pictured here at right). Its scientific name is: Halyomorpha halys (Stal).

Detailed Fact Sheet: Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Northeastern IPM Center) (includes a page that will assist you with correct identification:

BMSB — same photo as above, but without any labeling

Late Blight News

Late Blight Photos / Symptoms

Late blight has very recently been reported in potato plantings in coastal Maine (Woolwich, in Sagadahoc County) and an additional outbreak was reported in Penobscot County. Late blight has also been reported in the St. Andre area of New Brunswick, Canada. Conditions for the development of late blight have been very good in Maine and growers should be on the alert to catch any early symptoms on their plants and be ready to apply appropriate control measures. Typical symptoms will be water-soaked lesions on the leaves with fine, white cottony mycelium on the undersides. Infections on the stems appear as dark, almost black lesions.

Late blight spores can travel over 40 miles under the right conditions (wet and warm) and the spread can be very fast. We are encouraging all growers to carefully and regularly inspect their plants for this disease. Please report any suspicious symptoms to us at our UMaine Extension Pest Management Office at 207-581-3883 or 1-800-287-0279 (in Maine). Samples should be sent in a sealed plastic bag with a dry paper towel to keep them fresh. Visit for more detailed shipping and sample preparation directions, as well as a submission form for any samples you send to us.

More information about Late Blight:


European Chafers

European Chafer beetles are now active in the Bangor region of the state (and have likely been out for a little while already in areas south of Bangor).  The adult is a 1/2 inch long, golden tan to light brown, oval-shaped June beetle [photo courtesy of USDA ARS].  These beetles emerge from the ground annually at this time of year (June & July), just as it is getting dark, and take off in search of eligible mates.  Females begin laying eggs (in the soil) just a day after mating, and the eggs hatch in 2 to 3 weeks into tiny white grubs–the destructive stage of this pest–which begin feeding right away on grass roots.  The grubs continue to feed on the roots of grasses throughout the summer and again the following spring, chewing them off and killing the grass in the process.  So if you are seeing these beetles swarming in your area, and/or you have areas of turf that have been victimized in the past by this pest, now is the time to be preparing to take control measures, if that is on your agenda!

Detailed Fact Sheets: European Chafer (Purdue) – see also pdf (Cornell), and for more about the grub stage of this and other similar lawn and turf pest beetles, visit: White Grubs in Lawns (University of Illinois) and White Grubs in Home Lawns / pdf (Penn State)

Rose Chafers are also active now.

cartoon bug reporter