The failure of success: cyclic recurrences of a globally invasive pest.
In the six decades since 1960, the oriental fruit fly, Bactrocera dorsalis (Hendel), has been announced successfully eradicated in California by the U.S. Department of Agriculture a total of 564 times. This includes eradication declarations in one city a total of 25 different years, in 12 cities 8-19 different years, and in 101 cities 2-7 different years. We here show that the false negatives in declaring elimination success hinge on the easily achieved regulatory criteria, which have virtually guaranteed the failure of complete extirpation of this pest. Analyses of the time series of fly detection over California placed on a grid of 100-km2 cells revealed (1) partial success of the eradication program in controlling the invasion of the oriental fruit fly; (2) low prevalence of the initial detection in these cells is often followed by high prevalence of recurrences; (3) progressively shorter intervals between years of consecutive detections; and (4) high likelihood of early-infested cells also experiencing the most frequent outbreaks. Facing the risk of recurrent invasions, such short-term eradication programs have only succeeded annually according to the current regulatory criteria but have failed to achieve the larger goal of complete extirpation of the oriental fruit fly. Based on the components and running costs of the current programs, we further estimated the efficiency of eradication programs with different combinations of eradication radius, duration, and edge impermeability in reducing invasion recurrences and slowing the spread of the oriental fruit fly. We end with policy implications including the need for agricultural agencies worldwide to revisit eradication protocols in which monitoring and treatments are terminated when the regulatory criteria for declaring eradication are met. Our results also have direct implications to invasion biologists and agriculture policy makers regarding long-term risks of short-term expediency.