Q: Every day I go outside to spot check my plants and trees. Today I was looking over my largest papaya tree, which is in a large container and is about 8 feet tall.
This is my first year growing papaya, and I have been very successful. I have eight fruit growing in several different stages. I noticed there was a white gel-type substance on many of the fruits. There also was what looked like a wasp hanging around, which after looking this all up, I found was the papaya fruit fly. There are several fruit that it pierced to lay its eggs.
Mind you, this all happened this morning. Last night it was just fine. Is there anything I can do to salvage the fruit? What needs to be done? I’m so disappointed. This was my first go at this type of fruit, and it was doing so well.
By the way, that fruit fly is no longer around. I made sure of that! Please let me know if there is anything I can do.
Answer: I believe you are correct. Your papaya pest is the papaya fruit fly. Please see the University of Florida publication on this fruit fly at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IN/IN14800.pdf. This publication provides tips for the management of this pest, including killing the adult female fruit fly before she deposits eggs in the fruit, and placing a paper bag over each fruit and increasing the bag size as the fruit size increases.
The article goes on to state: “Sanitation is also quite important in the control of the papaya fruit fly. All dropped and prematurely ripe fruit, as well as infested young fruit, must be destroyed in order to prevent the larvae from developing into adults.” The key is to prevent the egg-laying process.
Whether you can salvage the fruit to consume it would depend on the extent of the infestation inside the fruit. When you cut the fruit open, trim out anything that appears to have been chewed on and discard it as stated above. Eat the rest or refrigerate it right away. If you are not comfortable doing this, you may want to destroy the fruit.
Everyone can access the University of Florida website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.
Lynn Barber is the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods agent at Hillsborough Extension. Reach her at BarberL@hillsboroughcounty.org.