Without Insecticide Sprays, European Olive Oil Would Smell and Taste Really Bad

Decay and feeding damage from olive fly

Decay and feeding damage from olive fly

More than 95% of the world’s production of olive oil (about 870 million gallons) comes from the Mediterranean region. The olive fly is an ancient pest mentioned in Greek and Roman writings dating back to the 3rd Century B.C. In heavily infested orchards more than 90% of the olives may be attacked. The larvae consume pulp which results in a reduction of oil quantity by 20-25%; the quality of the oil is also lowered. Oil obtained from olives infested with the olive fruit fly has 50-60% higher acidity. Exit holes made by larvae allow for the development of bacteria and fungi. Acidity is increased by fermentation through the action of bacteria and fungi and oxygen exposure. The larval gut contents may have an effect on the flavor of the oil and lead to a so-called “wormy smell”. In the 1960s, the availability of inexpensive chemical insecticides made it possible to protect the olive crop efficiently from the olive fly. Several countries such as Spain and Greece have government-sponsored programs that provide area-wide spray programs.

“The olive fruit fly, is considered to be the key pest of the Mediterranean Basin olive orchards. Females lay their eggs in both green and ripening olive fruit, and larvae feed upon the pulp of the fruit. They finally pupate inside the olive or exit to pupate on the ground. This pest causes a reduction in yield owing to a premature fruit drop or a loss of weight of the fruit caused by feeding larvae. Furthermore, microorganism growth inside the fruit increases the acidity of olive oils, which decreases their quality and commercial value. In table olives, B. oleae’s damage totally reduces their commercial value. Control methods against this pest include bait sprays, cover sprays and mass trapping. Traditional insecticides, such as organophosphates, and other more recently developed compounds, such as spinosad, are commonly applied as bait sprays.” 

Authors: Bengochea, P., et al.
Affiliation: Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, Spain.
Title: Insect growth regulators as potential insecticides to control olive fruit fly (Bactrocera oleae Rossi): insect toxicity bioassays and molecular docking approach.
Source: Pest Management Science. 2013. 69:27-34.

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