Santa Clara County enacts quarantine due to Oriental fruit flies

Wednesday's choice pick at Prince of Peace Farmer’s Market, in Saratoga, comes with a side of caution. Santa Clara County officials warned vendors of the invasive Oriental fruit fly in the area.

"In Santa Clara, and in other urban areas in California, we’re just a gateway for invasive pests," said Joe Deviney, the county’s agriculture commissioner.

He said nine Oriental fruit flies have been detected in the county. The invasive insects can infest fruits in homeowners' yards. San Jose resident Russell Powell beamed with pride at the apple, pear, lemon trees in his front yard.

"If we’ve got a surplus, find out who likes them, and then calls are made. Pick-ups are made. It’s just a friendly neighborhood thing," said Powell.

That type of neighborly trading of fruit will be on hold for several months. This, after county officials announced a 112-mile quarantine area of fruits and vegetables, due to the presence of Oriental fruit flies.

"This insect definitely came in on contraband type of illegal fruit. Either somebody brought it in intentionally, to sell it. Or unintentionally from their home country," said Deviney.

He said upwards of 230 different fruits and vegetables are at risk. And so is the county’s $310M annual agriculture industry.

The quarantine impacts all of Santa Clara, and parts of Cupertino, Milpitas, San Jose, and Sunnyvale.

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"We’re trying to lock down that area. So no fruits or vegetables will leave, which might spread the fly," said Deviney.

Traps laced with pheromones are being put on trees within the quarantine area to lure in, and then kill, the male of the species. Officials say that’ll prevent reproduction with females, which can lay 10–100 eggs per piece of fruit.

Farmer’s Markets and nurseries are being asked to sign compliance agreements, stating they’ll restrict movements of merchandise. And take mitigation efforts – such as the use of netting -- to reduce the chance this insect will spread elsewhere.

"To make sure they safeguard the fruit, and make sure it’s not going to be infected so when they do their normal business they’re not spreading the flies," said Deviney.

The quarantine area will stay in effect until May of next year. Officials will then reassess conditions.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter), @JesseKTVU and on Instagram, @jessegontv