Fruit Flies Infest Sonoma Olive Harvest

Nerves accompanied our olive harvest this year as we worried about a severe infestation of the olive fruit fly that has hit growers in Sonoma County.

Flies sting the ripening olives to lay eggs and the hatched larvae feed on the fruit, making the crop unsuitable for pressing or curing. When the olives fall to the ground, the worms burrow into the soil and reappear in the spring as next year’s fruit fly. With a severe infestation, a grower can lose an entire crop.

We'd noticed fruit flies two years ago on our two mature olive trees. Clay has closely monitored the trees over the years, treating them and setting fruit fly traps to minimize the damage, and picking up every single fallen olive to prevent worms from burrowing into the ground. This year, we saw a lot of stings and he was frustrated, thinking all his work was, literally, fruitless. Fortunately, he spoke with our friend and neighboring grower, Ted Klopp, who told us the entire county was experiencing the same thing.

We gritted our teeth and decided to harvest the heavily laden trees, to see if the damage was light enough that Dry Creek Olive Company would accept them for inclusion in the community press. With the help of our good friends, Michelle and Marlo, we stripped most of the fruit from the trees and carefully and painstakingly began to sort out the damaged fruit.

After spending a day and a half picking and cleaning two pails of fruit and realizing we still had three full pails to go, we decided to go ahead and take the fruit to Dry Creek as it was. We figured they could at least tell us if we were on the right track and if, looking at the sorted buckets, any of our fruit would be accepted. If so, we were prepared to sit down and sort the rest.

Fortunately, an expert expert at Dry Creek said that not only was our sorted fruit in great condition, she would accept the unsorted fruit. She said they were seeing bins full of flies and squirming maggots and turning away tons of infested fruit. We were shocked, as we saw neither in our fruit.

We were thrilled to find that all of Clay's hard work over the last two years had paid off. The rest of the day we enjoyed the company of our two good friends and basked in the knowledge that we might be getting the hang of this after all.

Celebrating a successful olive harvest.

Celebrating a successful olive harvest.

Click here to read about last year's olive harvest, our first olive harvest at Gantz Family Vineyards.

Dry Creek Olive Oil Company will have another Community Milling Day Nov. 17, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information go to their webpage or call 707-431-7200, ext 5.