09 December 2009

Getting personal

I bought a crate of clementines from Spain last weekend. They're all over the grocery stores right now and I wanted fruit to toss into my lunch bag this week.

Normally, when I buy clementines, I have a small nerdly moment looking for the ISPM 15 treatment stamp on the crate. The stamp means the wood has been treated so that it won't spread tree or wood pests.

I don't generally give much thought to the fact that the fruit has also been treated to prevent the spread of other pests, like fruit flies. For citrus, the fruit is usually cold treated; that is, it's held at a low temperature for a given period of time, which kills the pests. What temperature and how long depends on the kind of pest. Obviously this is no less important than the treatment of the crates, but it's also not visible, so there's less of a nerdly thrill in noticing it.

Today, however, I pulled a clementine out of my lunch bag, started peeling it, and found it was full of Mediterranean fruit fly larvae.


First thought: Ew!

Second thought: Oh hell, that's MEDFLY.

The third thought was that, praise the deities, they're all dead. I have faith in the scientists who study pests and treatments, but there's nothing quite as good as seeing for yourself that the system works. Thanks to that cold, secure ship's hold, the little beasties' number had come up, and the number was Probit 9.

Yes, I did just make a lame statistics joke. Thank you, I'm here all week.

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