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Millions proposed to fight a fruit fly that's damaging Michigan berries

spotted wing drosophila.jpeg
Hannah Burrack
/
North Carolina State University, Bugwood.org
An adult spotted wing drosophila, on a raspberry. (Photo: Hannah Burrack, North Carolina State University, Bugwood.org)

A bill in the U.S. Senate aims to prevent the spread of a fruit fly that threatens important Michigan crops.

The spotted-wing drosophila is tiny — just 2-3 millimeters in length. It could sit atop a pencil eraser and still have room to stretch out.

Adults lay their eggs in soft-skinned fruits like cherries and blueberries, and the larvae feed on the fruit. Even a small infestation can scare buyers away from an entire crop.

It’s a significant problem in Michigan and a handful of other states.

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., says his bill would spend $6.5 million a year for five years, researching ways to control the spread of the fruit fly.

“Certainly, if we’re trying to help growers who have been impacted, that would have a much larger price tag, when you’re looking at an impact around the country estimated to be around $700 million per year,” Peters said. “But we need to figure out how to mitigate this so it doesn’t happen in the future.”

The bill has support from two Republicans, as well: Senators Susan Collins of Maine, and Mike Braun of Indiana.

The fruit fly has been in Michigan since 2010. A lot of the work to mitigate its spread is being done by Michigan State University.

Ed Ronco is IPR's news director.