Invasive bug takes a bite out of Vt. raspberry crop - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Invasive bug takes a bite out of Vt. raspberry crop

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"They are one of my favorite crops here," Bob Douglas said. "Between that and the sweet cherries. I mean, they are not as common."

Fourth-generation farmer Bob Douglas owns the Douglas Orchard with his brother, Scott. Although apples are their big ticket item, he says he has always loved growing raspberries. But the brothers received some bad news last year.

"One of our neighbors picked some berries and they got them out and said, 'You have a problem here!' And yeah, we definitely do," Douglas said.

A new invasive species, the spotted-wing drosophila, has been buzzing through the nation since 2008. And last year, it made its way to Vermont. These Asian fruit flies will wreak havoc on soft fruits, especially raspberries.

"Last year, we weren't prepared for it at all. We didn't know it was coming," Douglas said. "And it pretty well totaled the crop by the time we found it was there. It was too late."

And this year, the flies are back and the damage is even greater. Of the half acre of red, plump raspberries, Douglas estimates up to 80 percent of the berries are destroyed. The flies will lay larvae in the fruit, and once hatched, will turn the insides into mush.

Douglas says a good raspberry will come clean off its stem. So, when a berry is picked and leaves behind a red juice, he already knows the berry is bad.

Douglas says this year, they tried preparing for the flies. He says they spent thousands in spraying and reconfiguring the bushes, but it didn't work. Douglas says even though berries are a side crop to their apples, he isn't sure how much longer they can take the pests.

"Next year, we are going to try thinning the plants more, so the spray will penetrate through them more. But every time you do that, it's more labor and more money. And three strikes we are probably out if it doesn't work next year," Douglas said.

Although the raspberries look succulent and sweet this year, he hopes they can find a way to finally eat them, next year.

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