An Oriental Fruit Fly is hitting the agriculture industry in South Florida. The invasive insect is affecting the livelihoods of farmers.
On Wednesday, concerned farmers and landscapers met up to talk about how to handle the issue at the Agricultural Extension Office in Homestead.
"If unchecked, it will destroy the whole of Florida's agriculture," Robert Moeling explained. He owns the "Robert Is Here" fruit stand.
The Oriental Fruit Fly popped up in a single almond tree on Aug. 17 and it's spreading. It's been found in Kendall, the Redlands, and some neighborhoods near Miami International Airport.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam said the insect is a growing concern.
"A lot of people's jobs are at stake with these invasive species," Mayor Gimenez said.
"This is one of the most damaging pests in the world for agricultural commodities," Putnam added.
The flies are attracted to all sorts of crops, not just fruits. "Threatens our avocados, our guavas, our figs, our citrus, our peaches," Putnam said.
The Florida Department of Agriculture is working to eradicate the pests before it gets out of control.
"If this were to get out of hand here, it could be the whole, you know, Dade County, or Broward County, or keep spreading going right into the oranges," said Mark Philcox, owner of Grove Services.
It was a packed house as concerned farmers, growers and landscapers met up to learn about treatment to get rid of the fly.
The Florida Department of Agriculture has set up 4,900 bait spray traps where they try to annihilate the males. They have also set up quarantine zones where the flies have been detected. One farmer is in that zone.
"About a third of our groves are in the quarantine area," Philcox said.
If you're in a 4.5 mile radius of a detected fly, you get put in the quarantine zone, where you can't pick your crop for 30 days until you get cleared.
Agriculture is a $2.5 billion industry in Florida. The insect could affect the growers' livelihoods and hit them hard economically.
"Nobody wants to have this spread. Nobody wants to have it happen to them. If it spreads to me then I gotta lose everything I have," Moeling said.
The farmers are hoping that with treatment, they can get rid of these fruit flies for good.
If you see one of the flies, call the hotline at 1-888-397-1517.