1 December 2008

It's war!

We have declared war on fruit fly, that summer pest we get here in Queensland but from recent reports has moved south to Melbourne. Those of you who have been reading here for a long time will know that we had a problem with fruit fly in the peaches and nectarines last summer, well, they returned worse than ever. We tried exclusion bags and saved quite a bit of our last season fruit; this year we have four peaches - everything else went to the chooks. Late last week we started finding fruit fly larvae in the tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchinis and a few capsicums (peppers).

We (meaning Hanno) cut down both trees. Now we've decided to delay planting any more soft fruit plants - like tomatoes and cucumbers etc. until we are sure the fruit fly problem is under control. To do less would be an exercise in futility.

Our second line of defence is to pour boiling water around the areas the two trees were planted - fruit fly larvae develop in the ground. If the trees were still there with fruit on the ground, we would put the chooks in there to clean up the area, but the ground is clear and looks clean. Hopefully the boiling water will kill any unseen eggs or larvae. Next we'll establish bait stations using Eco-Naturalure Fruit Fly Bait. It's very expensive but if it works, it will be worth it. I will buy a small container when I go to work today.

The above photo is of last night's dinner. Everything, except the tuna (from Aldi) and the flour that made the bread that made the breadcrumbs, was produced in our backyard. That includes the eggs in the tuna loaf, the Dutch cream potatoes, leeks, corn and herbs. We will not allow fruit fly to stop us eating organic vegetables. Luckily there are quite a few things not affected by this terrible pest - everything on that plate is immune.

It will be a real pain buying tomatoes that don't taste like tomato and watery cucumbers but we'll have to do it until we win the war. When you plant a vegetable garden you have to be prepared for those times when things don't go as planned. Things are always changing in the garden, sometimes, like now, those changes happen faster than you want them to. But not doing anything is not an option, that would only make the problem worse by allowing the fruit fry to multiply in the ground until next season.

Generally I'm a calm and peace loving pacifist but this is war!

Over the weekend we reached another milestone here - 700,000 visitors! That is amazing. I'm not quite sure why my blog is popular but I'd like to thank you all for reading, and a special thank you to all those readers who have been here for a long time. Knowing you're all there, reading the comments and developing friendships with some of you has made this a sweet, warm and rewarding part of my days. I appreciate your comments and thoughts and I hope you all stick around for a while yet. I still have a lot to say. (That last bit will be no surprise to Hanno.) LOL



  1. Your dinner looked delicious.

    Fruit fly moving south - is this another 'hidden cost' of climate change, or just people being careless when travelling?

    I remember when I was a child, and travelled between Victoria and South Australia, the state borders were staffed by people checking our cars for fruit, all of which had to be disposed of in quarantine bins. They were pretty thorough too!

    Nowadays, there is nothing. Apparently there are signs somewhere around Bordertown, but blink and you'd miss them.

    In the cause of cutbacks and saving dollars, the Government has seen fit to stop employing people to check for fruit, and now it is an 'honesty system'.

    If you remember. If you're honest. If you don't figure "hey, I'll just eat this piece of fruit and no-one will know the difference'. If you're not half-asleep on the road and missing the signs and the bins, because you've been driving for five hours.

    Maybe some economies are false economies. Saving a few dollars employing a person on the very few roads that cross our state borders is a drop in the bucket of federal and state finance. The damage caused by fruit fly and other pests crossing state borders and devastating crops can reach into the millions.

    Just my 2c.

  2. Rhonda I had no idea that fruit fly invaded other veges as well. Hope all goes well in your erradication efforts. Keep us posted. I so enjoy reading your blog and congratulations on a great blogging milestone. Have a great day and see you tomorrow over the air waves or is that old fashion? Perhaps that should be cyberspace.

  3. Hi Rhonda,
    I love your blog and read it everyday. I have implemented lots of your ideas and have fun thinking about all the other things I can't do yet but would love to.

    What do fruit fly larvae look like? One of our capsicums from the garden had a small hole in one end and inside were tiny little white things on the side....We just scraped them off and ate it anyway! oops! Maybe we should have chucked it!

    Cheers, and thanks for your wonderful blog,

  4. Hello Rhonda,
    Have you tried ducks. We had a problem with those black squishy bug things on our cherry and stone fruit trees but only after the duck were gone. This year geese have been free ranging under the trees and again no black buggie things. They too breed in the ground, so maybe that might be your answer.
    It cant hurt.

  5. Hello Rhonda,
    Hope you win the war!!
    And 700,000 visitors...well done you. I've read every single post for over a year now, and am continually inspired. Thanks for all you share.
    Big hugs,
    Diana xxx

  6. Hi Rhonda,
    I have left a comment in a while, but I read every day.
    You are such a dear and thank you for sharing your life with us.
    ~~ Hugs to Alice ~~
    Have you all thought anymore about getting another "sister" for Alice?
    Love to you,

  7. Your dinner did look yummy! Do you make tuna loaf like meatloaf? I've never tried it but I do like tuna.


  8. I don't personally know a lot about fruit fly but I know that my mum gets brilliant fruit each year by wrapping her trees in flyscreen. She just sews together big sheets of it and then wraps the tree like a lollipop (she reckons it is cheap to buy and doesn't upset the organicness of her garden) tying it with big piece of cloth around the trunk (I understand some people soak this in pyrethrum but mum doesn't). Her garden was destroyed in the storms (she lives in Brizzy) but no fruit fly troubles!!

  9. Rhonda,how frustrating to lose your stone fruit and tomatoes to the wretched fruit fly. We have the same problem on the Gold Coast, have had for many years but I didn't realise they affected the tomatoes until I read your previous great post on growing them. It "clicked " that this was one of the problems at this time of year with my tomatoes.
    Seeing your yummy nectarines in previous posts made me very keen to plant a tree but with all the problems I have decided against it.
    I have a mandarin and joppa orange (thick skin) and I haven't had a problem there but I do put up the empty soft drink bottle trap with vegemite and water in it. It seems to catch insects, I can only hope they are the fruit fly. Neighbours get the fly in lemon trees but we still eat the good parts. They dont bother with traps which probably doesn't help.
    I am one of the daily readers who thoroughly enjoys your blog.Thanks for sharing your days and helpful information with us.
    Regards Patricia.

  10. I have heard that soapy water helps to keep the fruit fly at bay, apparently you wash your whole tree with it.

  11. Hi Rhonda

    I've been reading for quite a while now - but haven't commented before!!! I understand your frustration!!! Since I started living more simply and enjoying fresher and better quality produce, I don't ever want to go back to supermarket tasteless fruit & veggies!!!

    I'm also on the Sunshine Coast, and in the meantime while the war is being fought, I can recommend the Noosaville Farmers Markets on a Sunday morning from 7 - 12 to get fresh fruit & veggies from. A lot of it is local, and organically grown, and the taste is always good.

    I also remember as daharja said, the border security in and out of South Australia. I haven't driven it in years, but it's sad that it's not there now. Also, when I fly, I do recall that Qantas will sometimes put a page over the aircraft that says "in some states, fruit & veg cannot be taken into" or something like that - but they never say "here in NSW, it is illegal to bring in fruit from Queensland, ensure you dispose of it" etc.

    Anyways, enough rambling on - good luck with the war!!!!

  12. We have been having problems with fruit flys here in Central California caost lately. I had never had a problem til now. I am not growing anything, it comes with my produce I suppose when I buy it at the store. We'll see what happens next year when my garden gets started! Good luck on your war!
    BTW, your dinner looks yummy!

  13. We are in Wollongong NSW> and last year i lost my whole tomoato crop to fruit fly and this year lost a whole peach tree worth of fruit. Very disappointed to say the least... I ate a peach that was not effected and the taste was magnificant.

    Such a waste......
    Donna from Wollongong

  14. Hello Rhonda, we are battling fruit fly too and using the Naturalure bait. Last season most of our tomato crop was FF damaged and I want to save it this year.

    Our local nursery suggest that you fix a bucket on its side and spray the bait inside the bucket to protect it from light showers. Apparently FF prefer blue to yellow, so we started with yellow buckets but are now adding blue buckets to the system. I am hoping that it works!

  15. It is such a satisfying feeling to grow your own dinner. We probably average producing or bartering for 50% of our own food. (we do have the advantage of growing our own wheat for bread etc.) I love your blog having just found it recently. It gave me just the boost I needed. It is definitely a practice and not a destination.

    Are there any natural predators to your fruit flies you could encourage? I have been wiped out in the past by wooly worms, squirrels,white flies, and beetles. Completely aggravating! It really makes one conscious of the precariousness of our food supply.

  16. Grr, I hate losing out to fruit fly! We lost all our big self sewn tomatoes (the best kind, since there's no work involved). luckily our baby tomatoes (also self sewn) are somehow coming through unscathed.

    Good luck with the little blighters!

  17. I use soapy water and diatomaceous earth to battle the bugs, it works great. I don't know if you can get Ivory dish soap where you are, but if you can, I believe it the best for bugs IMHO, you don't need much, just enough to make the water sudsy when you swish it, it breaks the surface tension of the water and it makes it stick to the bugs, they drown. Good luck!

  18. oh no
    well to put it frankly that sucks.
    i was looking at the lovely apples forming on my old apple tree and wondering if i should be baging them up or doing something to protect them
    congrats on the visitors im not suprised...its a very inspirational little blog u have here

  19. Go get 'em girl! War is War!

  20. Daharja, the flies are actually flying south! Yes, people do take fruit with them as well, but they're slowly flying south as well. grrrr...

    Rhonda, do you have Farmers Markets near you? Even if you have to buy tomatoes at least Farmers Markets will have reasonable ones!

    Could you plant more tomatoes now and bag them?

  21. Those fruit flies sound just horrific! I can't imagine just how frustrating and demoralizing it must be to have to pull up trees and stop planting your favourites for awhile.

    If you've got time during your battles, I've got a question that perhaps you can help with. I live in Britain in a rented studio that is built in a converted Victorian house. I've got radiators connected to a gas powered combi boiler-and they work great! I use lots of blankets and jumpers and carefully time when they come on to use at little heat as possible. HOWEVER-my flat is very humid. Not having a drier and living in rainy Britain, my clothes dry on the radiators. I cook lots of soups, take showers and don't generally help the condition. Its so humid that my single glazed windows condensate so much that they drip-the wall mildews and it isn't healthy or pleasant.

    Unfortunately, I can't change the windows, nor can I do much to reduce the humidity (I've tried all of the things I can think of with only limited improvement). Twice a day I try to wipe the windows with a sponge to get some of the excess water off-but its just not enough. Do you have any ideas? Perhaps a way to mimick double glazing? Unfortuantely, my landlords won't allow me to stick anything to the windows-so whatever I do has to be fairly invisible and easy to remove.

    I am considering a dehumidifier, but I'd rather not rely on the electricity to run it!

  22. Good luck with your battle against the fruit fly, Rhonda. We bought a home with some fruit trees around it, and as we've only lived here for a few short months, we probably haven't "met" all the seasonal pests yet. We have to be extra careful about planting additional fruit trees, because our religion prohibits cutting them off - once we have it, we're stuck with it!!

  23. Your dinner looks wonderful good and tasty! I have a very small veggie garden and have never had a problem with fruit flies...so I guess I am lucky. I hope you are able to win the war, as there is nothing like eating the good foods from the garden, especially the tomatoes,which you well know. I am going to start growing my own potatoes and try my hand at corn this year. I hope I can put out a dish like yours next summer.

  24. I'm another daily reader/subscriber who loves this blog! As our garden is in winter rest, it's delightful to see what you are doing now.

    Since you have the "chooks" as you call them in your corner of the world, maybe you could move a pen underneath them to dig out the larvae of the overwintering bugs. Clean up all fallen fruit because this increases the flies for the next year. Another benefit is that the chooks will fertilize your trees as well.

    I also organic garden and enjoy cooking. You may want to read some things I do in my garden at my blog:

    Mrs. Prudent Classroom

  25. 700,000? wow! kudos to you!
    and tuna loaf? if you get a spare moment, could you share the recipe? I'd love to try it!

  26. I can remember the fruit checks at the borders too, especially the NSW/VIC border.   Dad always made sure we either didn't carry fruit or ate it before the border.  He was also diligent about picking up fallen fruit from trees, saying it rotting there was like manna to the fruitflies.  These days I see orchards with rotting fruit all over the place.

  27. Hi BelovedGoddess - I remember picking up the rotting fruit from our apricot trees in South Australia in the seventies as well, for the same reason - Dad said it would attract fruit fly, even though SA was supposedly fruit fly free at the time.

    It's a different attitude - one of forethought and caring about the world. We need to foster that attitude once again. It's a real spirit of community that existed, and I want it back.

    Community really does start with as simple an act as picking up a piece of litter that someone has left behind and putting it in the bin - or picking up rotting fruit and composting it to avoid fruit fly. It really does.

  28. For international readers: AFAIK, we've managed to keep Queensland fruit fly to ourselves. You have nothing to fear from the vinegar flies that hover over overripe fruit or your compost heap (some say you need to add lime to the compost when you see them). Fruit fly larvae are maggots and can grow quite large. Chooks like them, or you can just squash them. Infested crops should be put in a plastic bag and left in the sun for a few days if you don't have chooks. When the maggots are dead, you can compost the remainder. I will be keen to see if the very expensive Naturalure baits are any improvement on the old Vegemite traps!

  29. Your dinner looks delicious!! I have never made a tuna loaf, but would imagine it's kind of like a salmon loaf?

    Anyways, I still have fruit flies in my house. It's a never ending battle here, but I will be the first to admit that my compost jar sits on the counter too long some days. Haha :)

    I also love the gratification you get by looking at meals that where most or all the ingredients came from your garden or at least in a 1 hour radius. It brings great joy to me also :)

  30. Rhonda, do you remember at the time of our interview last year, you had just reached 50,000 hits!!!!!!! Congratulations. I still love to read about your days.

    Lisa x

  31. Have you tried cherry tomatoes?
    Fruit fly aren't overly fond of them and they'll keep you in tomatoes until you solve the problem.


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