August 11, 2013
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Yoon S. Byun/Globe staff
Workers in Maine filled hand-held scoops and poured blueberries into tubs — the first of more than 80 million pounds of berries to be harvested and frozen in the next few weeks.
This year's crop is threatened, however, by a red-eyed, weak-flying fruit fly.
The spotted wing drosophila first showed up in New England in 2011 and threatens not just blueberries, but also raspberries, blackberries, and late-season strawberries.
Judy Collins, an assistant scientist at the University of Maine School of Biology and Ecology, said the fly "can cause terrible losses."
Collins's team is experimenting to see whether a yeast-and-sugar solution could attract the flies away from the berries.
Its rapid reproduction rate — 10-12 generations in a year — and the suddenness of its appearance make it worrisome for soft-fruit farmers across the nation.
Some farmers are hiring more pickers or trying to ramp up their freezing operations to prevent devastating losses.
Ed Flanagan, president and chief executive of Jasper Wyman & Son, said he was confident the company would conquer the pest.