Stable Flies Breed in Pineapples, Harm Cattle

July 16, 2010

The Costa Rican government presented a plan to combat a recent stable fly outbreak. The bloodsucking insects, which breed in decomposing organic matter, are affecting cattle in the northern and southern Atlantic coastal areas.

The stable fly (Stomoxys calcitrans) looks similar to the common housefly, and feeds primarily on livestock. In Costa Rica, the flies reproduce in rotting stems and leaves on pineapple and banana plantations and then feast on nearby cows. Their bites leave sores that can become infected, and also lower the cows’ milk production. The Agriculture and Livestock Ministry (MAG) announced a plan Friday, July 9, for farmers and pineapple producers to fight the pest.

The announcement was made at the Cattle Farmers Chamber of San Carlos, with representatives of pineapple and livestock producers in attendance, according to a statement from the ministry.

The focus will be on prevention, including monitoring, managing disposal of organic waste materials and training workers to recognize and handle problems associated with the fly. The ministry is also working with cattle farmers to control fly breeding in waste from animal feed (such as sugar cane) and in the preparation of poultry manure and other organic composts.

Those who do not comply with the measures outlined by agricultural officials and the National Animal Health Service (SENASA) during an outbreak can face criminal charges and six months to three years in jail. The ministry will conduct inspections to identify and monitor infested areas.

Compounding the problem is the fact that stable flies can travel distances of more than 10 km, so can affect a wide area in a short period of time. In Costa Rica, an estimated 1,200 pineapple growers have more than 46,000 hectares in production. Costa Rica is the largest exporter of pineapples in the world, and exports generated ¢610 million (roughly $1.2 million) last year, according to the MAG.

–Tico Times

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