(WBIR-Knoxville) Some of East Tennessee's fresh fruits face a relatively new threat.
The spotted wing drosophila (SWD) is a vinegar fly native to southeast Asia. It was first detected in California in 2008; by 2011, SWD reached blueberries in East Tennessee.
"Based on what we've seen last year, we'll probably see SWD show up in more places than ever before," said University of Tennessee Professor David Lockwood.
Lockwood is a professor with the Department of Plant Sciences. He said SWD is still new to them.
"The fruit flies that we've known forever are problems with overripe and rotted fruits. SWD will attack ripening fruit so it can cause a tremendous economic loss to the grower," Dr. Lockwood said.
Dennis Fox, owner of The Fruit and Berry Patch in North Knox County, will spray his blueberries and blackberries this year to help prevent crop loss.
"That's the thing that we're going to have to be careful about is spraying the blueberries and the blackberries. Something we haven't had to do in the past," Fox said.
Dr. Lockwood added, "I know that's a word that nobody likes to hear and the growers, the farmers, themselves are not really happy about it. But unfortunately, that right now is the only control."
Since 2013, SWD has spread to 23 counties in Tennessee.
According to Fox, it may have infected some of their crops last year.
"We had a suspicion that we might have had a few hit last year but I never was able to actually see any of the damage," he said.
Dr. Lockwood said eating a fruit that has been infested by SWD will not hurt you.
He added that UT has partnered with some other states to further research ways to control SWD.