Maine’s wild blueberry growers are concerned that fruit flies native to China will take a bite out of this summer’s crop.
The fly, known as the Spotted Wing Drosophila, has appeared six weeks earlier than expected, according to NBC affiliate WCSH News.
The flies first arrived in the United States in 2008.
They lay their eggs in soft fruits like blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. When the larvae hatch, they destroy the crop.
Wild blueberries are only grown commercially in Maine and eastern Canada, versus cultivated blueberries, which are grown in about a dozen states and British Columbia, according to the Associated Press. Ninety-nine percent of the fruit is sold for use in foods like muffins, yogurt and jam.
Experts have predicted an average harvest of about 86 million pounds of wild blueberries for this year, down from last year's 91 million pounds. But if the fruit flies have a successful summer, yields could go down and wild blueberry prices will rise.
"We've had different insects you've had to control, but we haven't had one that does all its dirty work right when you're about to harvest," Ed Flanagan, president and CEO of Jasper Wyman & Son, a wild-blueberry company based in Milbridge, Maine, told the AP.