The following is an edited excerpt.
In August 2011, researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture were presented with a serious, and potentially very costly, puzzle in Kennewick, Wash. Since Kennewick lies within a region near the heart of Washington state’s $1.5 billion apple-growing region, an annual survey of fruit trees is performed by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) to look for any invading insects. This time the surveyors discovered a crabapple tree that had been infested by a fruit fly that they couldn’t identify.
It was possible that the fly’s larvae, eating away inside the crabapples as they grew toward adulthood, belonged to a relatively harmless species that had simply expanded its traditional diet. In that case, they posed little threat to the surrounding apple orchards in central Washington.
But the real fear was that they represented an expansion in the range of the invasive apple maggot fly, known to biologists as Rhagoletis pomonella. If so, then this would trigger a costly quarantine process affecting three counties in the state.
Read the full press release here: Genetic analysis saves major apple-producing region of Washington state