Invasive Insect Pests: The Mediterranean fruit fly

The Mediterranean fruit fly Ceratitis capitata (Diptera: Tephritidae) (Figure 1) originally comes from Africa south of the Sahara (Malacrida et al. 2007). During the last 200 years it has been spread to all continents by worldwide fruit trade. It is one of the economically most important fruit pests, nowadays established in Southern Europe. In Central Europe it has been known since the 1930s. However, the species has been introduced again and again, as it is unable to establish persistent populations due to the cool winter climate. EPPO has classified the Mediterranean fruit fly as a quarantine organism, but in Switzerland the species is not a regulated pest.

In total, the larvae feed on over 250 host plants (White and Elson-Harris 1994). In addition to citrus fruits also peach, mango, walnut, apple or pear. The flies have are brightly coloured (White and Elson-Harris 1994). Their face is white, their antennae and trunk yellow. The chest is grey on top and marked with black and yellow spots. The wings are transparent and covered with black and grey markings. A yellow cross-band runs through the middle of the wings, a second yellow band runs parallel to the wing edge. Females lay an average of 300 eggs under the skin of fruits (White and Elson-Harris 1994). The development time of the larvae is strongly dependent on the temperature and is about 10 days at 25°C, so that 7 and more generations can be produced per year (Duyck and Quilici 2002).

Figure 1: Adult specimen of the Mediterranean fruit fly
© Agroscope

Unusual damages to apples in an orchard near Zurich were reported in autumn 2016 by the Strickhof Fruit Specialist Centre. Due to the two mild winters of 2014/15 and 2015/16, the Mediterranean fly was able to spread (Szalatnay 2016). The canton of Zurich therefore regularly monitors the Mediterranean fruit fly. As early as the 1950s, flight activity near Geneva was monitored because it caused damage to apricots, peaches and pears there. In Switzerland, it is assumed that the Mediterranean fruit fly is imported mainly by larvae in infested citrus fruits, as it occurs in important production countries such as Spain or Israel. Knowledge of the biology was used to simulate the potential geographical distribution of the Mediterranean fruit fly under current climatic conditions (Vera et al. 2002; Szyniszewska and Tatem 2014; Elekcioglu et al. 2019; Bekker et al. 2019; Kaya et al. 2017).

The potential distribution and seasonal occurrence of the Mediterranean fruit fly under present and future climatic conditions was estimated bioclimatically with the CLIMEX model (Kriticos et al. 2015). The simulations are based on the model parameters specifically tested for the Mediterranean fruit fly (Vera et al. 2002). The simulations show that the Mediterranean fruit fly cannot survive in the long term under both present and future climate conditions. The main reason for this is excessive cold stress (Figure 2). However, the growth potential will increase under future climate conditions. This means that introduced populations will cause increased damage to crops.

Figure 2. Cold stress of the Mediterranean fruit fly under current (1981-2010) and future climate conditions (2070-2099). The maps show how high the cold stress is at a site. Cold stress means that the Mediterranean fruit fly cannot survive in one location in the long term. Results of simulations with model CLIMEX. Basis for the calculation of the map on the right is the local climate scenario A2 for Switzerland.

Additional Information


Bekker G, Baard N, Addison MF, van Niekerk A, Addison P (2019) The area-wide spatio-temporal distribution of Ceratitis capitata (Wiedemann) (Diptera: Tephritidae) in a heterogenous fruit production region of the Western Cape, South Africa. Afr Entomol 27 (1):97-113. doi:10.4001/003.027.0097

Duyck PF, Quilici S (2002) Survival and development of different life stages of three Ceratitis spp. (Diptera : Tephritidae) reared at five constant temperatures. Bull Entomol Res 92 (6):461-469. doi:10.1079/ber2002188

Elekcioglu NZ, Artun O, Kavur H (2019) Predicting the potential geographic distribution and seasonality of Ceratitis capitata Wiedemann (Diptera, Tephritidae) in the Mediterranean region of Turkey. Fresenius Environ Bull 28 (12A):10164-10173

Kaya T, Ada E, Ipekdal K (2017) Modeling the distribution of the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata (Wiedemann, 1824) (Diptera, Tephritidae) in Turkey and its range expansion in Black Sea Region. Turkiye Entomoloji Dergisi-Turkish Journal of Entomology 41 (1):43-52. doi:10.16970/ted.28388

Kriticos DJ, Maywald GF, Yonow T, Zurcher EJ, Hermann NI, Sutherst RW (2015) CLIMEX Version 4: Exploring the effects of climate on plants, animals and diseaes. CSIRO, Canberra

Malacrida AR, Gomulski LM, Bonizzoni M, Bertin S, Gasperi G, Gugliclmino CR (2007) Globalization and fruit fly invasion and expansion: the medfly paradigm. Genetica 131 (1):1-9. doi:10.1007/s10709-006-9117-2

Szalatnay D (2016) Mittelmeerfruchtfliege (Ceratitis capitata) im Kanton ZH aufgetaucht. Strickhof, Wülflingen (Winterthur)

Szyniszewska AM, Tatem AJ (2014) Global Assessment of Seasonal Potential Distribution of Mediterranean Fruit Fly, Ceratitis capitata (Diptera: Tephritidae). PLoS One 9 (11). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0111582

Vera MT, Rodriguez R, Segura DF, Cladera JL, Sutherst RW (2002) Potential geographical distribution of the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata (Diptera : Tephritidae), with emphasis on Argentina and Australia. Environ Entomol 31 (6):1009-1022. doi:10.1603/0046-225x-31.6.1009

White IM, Elson-Harris MM (1994) Fruit Flies of Economic Significance. Their Identificationand Bionomics. CAB International, Wallingford, UK

Last modification 25.06.2024

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