A farmer friend complained about his ampalaya prematurely ripening on the vine and of small holes appearing on the fruit. Other farmers were quick to point out that these were indications of a fruit fly infestation.

A prematurely ripened ampalaya with a hole that signifies fruit fly infestation.

“The yellowing means the files have gotten to it already,” Raphael Dacones of Teraoka Family Farm says.”You can check if there’s a hole. If there is, it means it’s been fed on already.”

Fruit flies (Bactrocera dorsalis) is a serious pest for farmers. The adult flies inject their eggs into farmers’ fruit crops so their larvae have a ready source of food once hatched. The fruit itself becomes unmarketable from the physical damage caused by the infestation of larvae. Aside from ampalaya, fruit flies have been known to infest mango, papaya, guava, avocado, melon, and langka or jackfruit.Cleanliness is essential in preventing fruit fly infestations. In a garden, covering crops that tend to attract these pests with paper can be enough of a deterrent.

“Raf is right. Ampalaya is a target for fruit flies. Use methyl eugenol or Supernet,” says Julius Barcelona of Harbest Agribusiness Corp.

Prematurely ripening ampalaya on the vine might mean the presence of fruit flies.

Natural farmers can also dilute Perla brand or other coconut-based soap in water and use the mixture to liberally “wash” affected plants for two weeks, making sure to cover all surfaces where insects might nest, including underneath leaves. The soap leaves a coating that’s non-toxic to humans but lethal to insects. That brand of soap is made from 50% coconut oil and has a cult following among gardeners for its insecticidal properties. Neem oil and other natural insect repellents can also be applied.

If you think that you’ve already got an infestation on your hands, you’ll have to get rid of all affected fruit to make sure no eggs or larvae are left. “Perla might work but not if the worms are inside. Burn or bury the damaged fruits as they will be the new home base of the pest to attack your other fruits,” Barcelona adds.

Keeping your garden clean is important to keeping pests at bay, as this lessens their chances of breeding in the area. Pests are just one of the challenges a farmer may encounter but with proper prevention and should an infestation occur, rigorous eradication, you’ll be able to enjoy your harvests without having to share them with creepy crawlies.

Photos courtesy of Carlo Sumaoang

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s January to February 2021 issue.