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Olive fly

The olive tree

In our discussions on gardening, on cultivation and maintenance techniques and on the plants most loved by enthusiasts in the sector we have touched on many topics and recently we have also talked about the vine, among other things focusing on a very common disease in it called powdery mildew; a plant that from a historical and economic point of view has an importance comparable to that of the vine is the olive tree: also called “olive tree”, this plant has characteristics of climatic preference very close to those of the vine, and for this reason it develops with great results in the same areas already mentioned in the case of the vine, or in the Mediterranean basin and in a few other regions with a similar climate, such as California (a state in the United States of America). It is highly appreciated both for the fruit, called olive, and both for the nectar that is produced with the pressing of this fruit, or the olive oil: it takes on great culinary importance, since it is used to season, flavor and refine many dishes, from desserts to first courses, passing through rustic, main courses, appetizers and even snacks. Not only that, it is protected by DOP and DOC declarations and many other acronyms, which contribute to reinforce its image in the world and to increase an already thriving export trade.

Protect the olive tree


Oil is a special nectar for many people, given that, especially in the regions with the best and most productive climate for the olive tree, there is still the tradition of making oil yourself: just a few beautiful and productive plants in the garden, a lot of passion and a pinch of popular wisdom to produce excellent oil that will be enough even up to the next olive harvest. As we can easily realize, the olive tree is essential for many people and many activities, so it is right that it is protected against everything that can either leave a family without oil or a company without the main material to sell; the worst affections of oil are, as often happens for this genus of plants, are caused by the presence of insects and by that of particular species of fungi. The latter can either only lean on the plant to grow, without stealing any nutritional substance but only ruining it aesthetically, and both can parasitize it and in that case affect its productive yield and, in the most serious cases, life itself. Today, however, we will talk about an insect that infests the olive tree and which by many people is judged as the biggest problem that afflicts this plant, also because it often affects the production of olives and therefore of oil.

The olive fly

The olive fly, also called “oil fly” and with the scientific name of Bactrocera oleae, is an insect very similar to the common fly, but with slightly smaller dimensions, different colors of the head and back, but above all it has the characteristic that its larvae are infesters of the olive drupe; as we have already specified, this species of the Dacinae family of insects is considered as the most worrying adversity of olive trees. Obviously the most “devastating” role belongs to the larvae, which are born and grow in the olive drupe, or in the “pulp”; it is also true that the life cycle begins with the deposition of these eggs in the olive itself by the female olive fly, which makes an approximately triangular hole on the surface of the fruit and deposits a single egg, then repeating the operation both on the same olive and on others. When the larva comes out of the egg, it begins to dig towards the center of the olive tree, never reaching the core but creating many tunnels in the olive to make it very obviously attacked. As it grows and approaches pupal state, it begins to burrow outward until it falls off the plant, then develops onto the ground. However, the worst damage has already been done to this, with the olive losing both its smooth and luminous surface and its characteristic flavor. it begins to dig outwards until it falls off the plant, then develops on the ground. However, the worst damage has already been done to this, with the olive losing both its smooth and luminous surface and its characteristic flavor. it begins to dig outwards until it falls off the plant, then develops on the ground. However, the worst damage has already been done to this, with the olive losing both its smooth and luminous surface and its characteristic flavor.

Olive fly: damage and remedies

As mentioned at the end of the previous paragraph, the damage that the olive fly larva causes to cultivation is both aesthetic and functional, as it even affects the flavor of the olive itself and also of the oil; it seems incredible, but in reality, studies carried out have found that the oil suffers the most damage, having a much more acid taste, caused by an increase in acidity resulting from a greater dose of acetic acid in percentages between two percent and ten percent (depending on the severity of the infestation). It can therefore be imagined that finding remedies is fundamental, since this can negatively affect the harvest, the yield and therefore the economic rent deriving from the oil. Unfortunately, the natural enemies of the olive fly are few, limiting itself to a few specimens of the genus Hymenoptera and one of Diptera, some of which imported from other continents because they are absent in the Mediterranean basin. As preventive interventions, poisoned protein baits can be placed, which will attract the insect because it must supplement its low-protein diet; finally, there is the chemical fight, always full of pros and cons due to the nature of the herbicides used.

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