European fruit fly concerns Niagara Co. farmers

Posted at 10:38 AM, Aug 24, 2016

You might say 88-year-old Robert Scheda's life is literally a bowl of cherries. “They're sweet and they're good tasting. They're really good tasting cherries.”

So good, in fact, he makes a 50 minute trip from Kenmore to Bittner Singer Orchard in Appleton just to buy his favorite fruit. Wednesday's purchase is of the chocolate-covered persuasion. “I come here every week. I come every week to stop by and get some cherries,” he said as he paid for his chocolate-covered cherries.

Jim Bittner grows the crop on his 400-acre fruit farm. “If everything goes right, sweet cherries are the most profitable crop we grow.”

That could be in jeopardy now that the European cherry fruit fly has been detected in Mississauga, Ontario. “They actually cut a hole in the fruit and lay an egg inside the fruit. That would be the worm in the fruit for harvest time,” Bittner explained.

This season won't be the problem. That's because the prime time for picking has already passed. Still, Bittner worries for next season if these types of flies can survive through the winter. “If it got widespread and we can't contain it, it would be pretty devastating.”

Bittner is encouraged though knowing European farmers have been fighting the pest for years. “They have a similar climate to ours. So the first thing we're going to do is ask the Europeans what they’re doing.”

From there, Bittner said he'd come up his own solution. However, there's still a chance European cherry flies won't survive the winter and won't make their way to Niagara County.

Bittner said that would be the cherry on top of an otherwise sour situation, and his loyal customers agree. “If there were no sweet cherries, I don't know what I'd do,” Scheda said. “I don't want any bugs to get our cherries.”