Friday, July 3, 2020

A sudden invasion of Mediterranean fruit flies in 1989 might have been a bio-terror attack in California

From the Wikipedia entry:
In 1989, a sudden invasion of Mediterranean fruit flies (Ceratitis capitata, "medflies") appeared in California and began devastating crops. Scientists were puzzled and said that the sudden appearance of the insects "defies logic", and some speculated "biological terrorists" were responsible. Analysis suggested that an outside hand played a role in the dense infestation.

A person or group calling itself "The Breeders" took responsibility for the bioterrorist attack, as financial retaliation for the environmental damage caused by the state's Malathion aerial spraying; the group's members were never identified. Subsequently, three months after "The Breeders" announced the medfly release, the state ended its decade-long Malathion program and sought alternate ways to handle destructive insects.


The group promised to make the aerial spraying program politically and financially impossible through the coordinated release of thousands of medflies. As early as December 1989 the group's claim was taken seriously.[29] Initially, the letter was dismissed as "some crank trying to get a lot of publicity", but there was evidence the group played a role in the infestation. Certain characteristics of the 1989 medfly infestation led investigators to the conclusion that someone was responsible for deliberately releasing medflies. The dense medfly population coupled with the low number of medfly larvae found in the infested areas left entomologists baffled as to how the infestation could be completely natural. The writer of the letter, and any members of the alleged group, were never identified.