Oranges are traditionally picked between November and February, sometimes being left on the trees until March or April to grow larger but generally past their best before the spring – meaning an insect swarm affecting them now could cause terrific losses for citrus farmers.
The Scirtothrips Dorsalis Hood, known commonly as the ‘chilli thrips’, is an invasive species which comes from south-east Asia, the Americas and Africa, and has been detected in orange groves near the towns of Albatera, Callosa de Segura, Cox, Granja de Rocamora and Orihuela, all in the southern part of the province of Alicante.
Environmental and agriculture authorities in the Valencia have carried out inspections on farms and explained what owners need to do in terms of disinfecting, and destroying affected fruit.
The chilli thrips cause deformities in the fruit and leaves, causing the orange blossoms to fall off the trees, and blocks the photosynthetic activity in the plant.
But the worst effect is the damage the bugs cause to the reproductive organs in the flowers and fruit, which can lead to a loss of harvest and a poor quality in oranges that reach full maturity.
Agricultural laws passed in 2002 mean the landowner, or farmer, is responsible for eradicating infestations at his or her own cost, and to notify the regional ministry.
If they do not, as well as losing their own harvest, the farmers could be held liable if the infestation spreads to other people’s crops, or those in public areas.