SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (KABC) -- Stevenson Ranch residents may get a surprise visit from California agricultural officers who are searching for signs of a fruit fly infestation.
Officials for the California Department of Food and Agriculture say they are concerned about the appearance of the Tau fruit fly, an invasive breed from Asia that can destroy large swaths of produce including citrus, tomatoes, avocados and more.
"They attack the fruit directly and they lay their eggs under the skin," said James Carey, a professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. "The maggots develop and they destroy the fruit."
Agricultural officers are canvassing areas in Santa Clarita, asking residents to move Halloween pumpkins and gourds indoors to help prevent the spread of the flies.
Parts of the Inland Empire are dealing with a similar problem. More than 100 square miles of San Bernardino and Riverside counties are now under quarantine after multiple Oriental fruit flies were spotted there.
Experts say outdoor produce is safe to be eaten, but residents are asked not to move fruit or vegetables off their property, as a way to keep the flies somewhat contained.
The fruit flies may not pose a direct threat to people - they don't bite or sting - but their spread has taken a serious bite out of California's economy, estimated to be more than $19 billion of lost produce in 2020.
"It's really devastating for many of the growers, especially the small growers, where it pretty much destroys any possibility for them marketing their produce for that year," Carey said.