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Warm, wet and wormy: Weather is great for pests, bad for cherry growers

Spring cherry blossoms at Cherry Bay Orchards in Suttons Bay.
Emma Grant
Cherry Bay Orchards
Spring cherry blossoms at Cherry Bay Orchards in Suttons Bay.

Suttons Bay cherry grower Emma Grant was out on a tractor spraying fruit trees with insecticides on Monday.

“It's a rare day this year that the winds have actually been down,” she said.

High winds and heavy rain have made it tough for growers to get out and spray fruit.

That’s especially concerning because those same warm, wet conditions this year are perfect for spotted wing drosophila, an invasive fly that lays its eggs in ripe fruit.

The fly was first detected in Michigan in 2010.

Nikki Rothwell researches fruit at the Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Station. She says their traps are catching big numbers of flies lately.

“It's surprising that it's this early, it's actually concerning,” she said. “I think it's really about moisture. We've had tremendous moisture so far this year, and then we had a really mild winter, [and] I think that cold winter really kills off that population.”

Rothwell says this year’s spotted wing drosophila numbers could be on track with 2019, when tart cherry growers in northwest Michigan lost roughly a third of their crop to the pests.

Emma Grant, orchard manager at Cherry Bay Orchards, says the flies haven't arrived in full force yet.

“We have some in our traps,” she said. “[I’m] trying not to freak out too soon … Adults have been found. I haven't found any larvae in the fruit. … But it's definitely time to buckle down and be vigilant, because spotted wing drosophila is not a pest you want to mess around with.”

More flies could appear as fruit ripens and harvest begins next month.

Copyright 2024 Interlochen Public Radio

Ellie Katz joined IPR in June 2023 after working in podcasting and radio, including stints at Heritage Radio Network, FRQNCY Media, Stitcher and Michigan Radio.
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