Environment

Screwworm control expands to twice-weekly release of sterile flies in South Miami-Dade

In October, agriculture officials displayed a release chamber used to hold sterile fly larva.
In October, agriculture officials displayed a release chamber used to hold sterile fly larva. pportal@miamiherald.com

South Florida can expect a few more bugs over the next few weeks.

Florida and U.S. agriculture officials plan to release sterile screwworm flies twice weekly as a precautionary step after a stray dog was discovered infected with the flesh-eating bug in Homestead, U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesman Robert Dickens said in an email. On Friday, 300,000 flies were loaded into traps as part of the initial release.

The infected dog was confirmed last week, prompting officials to quickly begin surveying for wild screwworms. On Wednesday, they announced plans to release sterile flies to control them. The larvae are packed into green plastic crates that resemble oversized milk crates and hung from trees.

Since September, an outbreak in the Lower Keys has killed 135 endangered Key deer. Officials fear that if the grisly bugs spread to the mainland, they pose a considerable threat to the state’s $1 billion ranch industry. The outbreak in the Keys is the first in the U.S. in more than 30 years.

So far no flies have been confirmed on the mainland. The dog, a German shepherd, has been treated and is recovering.

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