Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Rhagoletis mendax
(blueberry fruit fly)



Rhagoletis mendax (blueberry fruit fly)


  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Rhagoletis mendax
  • Preferred Common Name
  • blueberry fruit fly
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Uniramia
  •         Class: Insecta

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TitleLine drawing of adult R. mendax
Copyright©CABI BioScience
Line drawing of adult R. mendax©CABI BioScience


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Rhagoletis mendax Curran

Preferred Common Name

  • blueberry fruit fly

International Common Names

  • English: blueberry maggot
  • French: mouche de l'airelle

EPPO code

  • RHAGME (Rhagoletis mendax)

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Uniramia
  •                 Class: Insecta
  •                     Order: Diptera
  •                         Family: Tephritidae
  •                             Genus: Rhagoletis
  •                                 Species: Rhagoletis mendax

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page Prior to the work of Bush (1966) Rhagoletis mendax was generally regarded as a synonym of R. pomonella (Walsh), the apple maggot fly. Consequently, many old records of R. pomonella are based on misidentifications of R. mendax.


Top of page Adult

Specimens should be carefully identified by examining the wing pattern, which will distinguish it from R. pomonella.

Diagnostic features of the genus are as follows (characters extracted from key to North American genera of Tephritidae by Foote et al., 1993): head with 2 pairs orbital setae; posterior pair reclinate. Gena without enlarged setae. First flagellomere (3rd antennal segment) at least slightly pointed at apex. Thorax with dorsocentral setae closer to level of anterior supra-alar setae than notopleural suture. Scutellum not swollen and polished. Wing with cells bm and bcu of similar depth; bcu with a short acute extension. Crossvein R-M near middle of cell dm.

R. mendax may be identified using the Diptera key in the CPC taxonomic identification aid. For full details of its separation from other North American species, see Foote et al. (1993).

The main features of the R. pomonella species complex (which also includes R. mendax) are as follows: Scutum and abdomen predominantly black. Scutellum base black. Wing without an accessory costal crossband (short band between the discal and preapical crossbands); apical wing bands as in drawing of R. pomonella. For more comprehensive details see Foote et al. (1993).

The separation of R. mendax from R. pomonella can only be made reliably by using biochemical methods. In general, R. mendax females have a shorter aculeus (0.7-0.9 mm) than R. pomonella (1.0-1.4 mm) but R. pomonella in Florida also has a short aculeus (0.7 mm). By far the most practical separation is on the basis of hosts as R. pomonella has never been shown to attack Ericaceae (old records from Ericaceae derive from a time when R. mendax was not recognised as distinct).


Diagnosis of genus by Elson-Harris (White and Elson-Harris, 1994): antennal sensory organ with a short basal segment and cone-shaped distal segment; maxillary sensory organ flat, with well defined sensilla surrounded by small cuticular folds; stomal sensory organ rounded, with a peg-like sensilla; large, preoral teeth near base of stomal sensory organ; no preoral lobes; oral ridges in 5-13 short, unserrated rows; no accessory plates. Stout spinules forming discontinuous rows on almost all segments. Anterior spiracles with 7-35 stout tubules. Posterior spiracular slits 3-8 times as long as broad, with 3-16 short, branched spiracular hairs. Anal lobes large, protuberant with well defined tubercles and sensilla.

Any Rhagoletis larvae found in Vaccinium species, or other Ericaceae, are likely to be this species (see Similarities Section); a full description is given by White and Elson-Harris (1994).


Top of page R. mendax is an eastern North American species whose distribution was mapped by Foote et al. (1993). See also CABI/EPPO (1998).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 23 Apr 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes


NetherlandsAbsent, Confirmed absent by surveyNPPO of the Netherlands (2013); EPPO (2020)
SloveniaAbsentEPPO (2020)

North America

CanadaPresent, LocalizedEPPO (2020); IPPC (2010); IPPC (2015)
-New BrunswickPresent, WidespreadFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)
-Nova ScotiaPresent, WidespreadFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)
-OntarioPresent, LocalizedFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)
-Prince Edward IslandPresent, WidespreadGuibord et al. (1985); EPPO (2020)
-QuebecPresent, LocalizedEPPO (2020)
United StatesPresent, LocalizedEPPO (2020)
-AlabamaPresentEPPO (2020)
-ConnecticutPresentFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)
-DelawarePresentEPPO (2020)
-FloridaPresentFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)
-GeorgiaPresentEPPO (2020)
-IllinoisPresentEPPO (2020)
-IndianaPresentSmith et al. (2001)
-KentuckyPresentEPPO (2020)
-MainePresentFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)
-MarylandPresentFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)
-MassachusettsPresentFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)
-MichiganPresentFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)
-MinnesotaPresentFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)
-MissouriPresentEPPO (2020)
-New HampshirePresentFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)
-New JerseyPresentFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)
-New YorkPresentFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)
-North CarolinaPresent, LocalizedFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)
-OhioPresentSmith et al. (2001); EPPO (2020)
-PennsylvaniaPresentFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)
-Rhode IslandPresentEPPO (2020)
-South CarolinaPresentEPPO (2020)
-TennesseePresentFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)
-VirginiaPresentFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)
-West VirginiaPresentFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)
-WisconsinPresentFoote et al. (1993); EPPO (2020)


New ZealandAbsent, Confirmed absent by surveyEPPO (2020)

Risk of Introduction

Top of page R. mendax is an quarantine pest for temperate regions. For example, the EPPO A1 quarantine list category 'non-European Trypetidae' (OEPP/EPPO, 1983) includes R. mendax.


Top of page Areas with suitable hosts and climate.

Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page This species attacks a wide range of Ericaceae, including some commercially grown species of blueberry (Vaccinium species). There are some records of what appear to be R. mendax attacking a wild plum (Prunus sp.) (SH Berlocher, [address available from CABI], personal communication, 1991) and its wild hosts were reviewed by Payne and Berlocher (1995).

Growth Stages

Top of page Fruiting stage


Top of page Attacked fruit will be pitted by oviposition punctures, around which some discoloration usually occurs.

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Fruit / discoloration
Fruit / extensive mould
Fruit / gummosis
Fruit / internal feeding
Fruit / lesions: black or brown
Fruit / lesions: scab or pitting
Fruit / obvious exit hole
Fruit / odour
Fruit / ooze

Biology and Ecology

Top of page Most Rhagoletis species have a similar biology, as detailed by Christenson and Foote (1960): eggs are laid below the skin of the host fruit and hatch after 3-7 days; the larvae usually feed for 2-5 weeks; pupariation is in the soil under the host plant and this is the normal overwintering stage; adults may live for up to 40 days under field conditions. Geddes et al. (1987), and Steck and Payne (1993) give a general account of the species.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

Top of page Adult flight and the transport of infected fruits are the major means of movement and dispersal to previously uninfected areas. In general, Rhagoletis species are not known to fly more than a short distance. In international trade, the major means of dispersal to previously uninfested areas is the transport of fruits containing live larvae. There is also a risk from the transport of puparia in soil or packaging with plants which have already fruited.

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Clothing, footwear and possessionsFruit in case or handbag. Yes
Containers and packaging - woodOf fruit cargo. Yes
Land vehiclesLorries, aeroplanes and perhaps ships, with fruit cargo. Yes
MailFruit in post. Yes
Soil, sand and gravelRisk of puparia in soil. Yes

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Fruits (inc. pods) eggs; larvae Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Growing medium accompanying plants pupae Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches
True seeds (inc. grain)


Top of page R. mendax is a damaging pest of blueberry in North America.

Detection and Inspection

Top of page Traps have been developed which capture both sexes, based on visual, or visual plus odour attraction. They are coated in sticky material and are usually either flat-surfaced and coloured fluorescent yellow to elicit a supernormal foliage response, or spherical and dark-coloured to represent a fruit; traps which combine both foliage and fruit attraction can also be used (see Liburd et al., 1998b). The odour comes from protein hydrolysate or other substances emitting ammonia, such as ammonium acetate. See Boller and Prokopy (1976) and Economopoulos (1989) for a discussion of these traps.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page Adults are very similar R. pomonella (see Morphology Section), and also R. cornivora (attacks Cornus species) and R. persimilis (host unknown); for details see Foote et al. (1993).

Larvae may be misidentified as those of R. tabellaria which may be found in cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.


Control procedures already established in the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO) region for R. cerasi are similar to those used against the North American pest species and could therefore be implemented against any outbreak of R. mendax within the EPPO region. If possible, wild and abandoned plantations should also be destroyed. Boller and Prokopy (1976) note that systemic organophosphates, such as dimethoate, are highly effective against most species, killing eggs, larvae and adults (see Bancroft et al., 1974). Belanger et al. (1985) discussed the use of pyrethroids, but these were only of use when pest activity was low. More environmentally acceptable techniques have been tried; namely bait sprays (insecticide plus ammonia source) which can be applied as a spot treatment; soil application of insecticide to destroy pupae; and juvenile hormone analogues which can be applied to the soil (Boller and Prokopy, 1976). Pheromone traps can be used to monitor populations (Geddes et al., 1989; Gaul et al., 1995), and Pearson and Mayer (1990) have constructed a model to predict infestation risk.

Sticky red spheres (see Detection Methods Section), described above as a monitoring method, have also been shown to have potential as a control method when baited and pesticide treated (Liburd et al., 1999).

Early ripening cultivars are less susceptible to attack than later ripening cultivars which fruit coincident with adult emergence (late July to early August) (Liburd et al., 1998a).

Phytosanitary measures

Consignments of blueberries and other Vaccinium species from countries where R. mendax occurs should be inspected for symptoms of infestation and those suspected should be cut open in order to look for larvae. EPPO recommends that such fruits should come from an area where R. mendax does not occur, or from a place of production found free from the pest by regular inspection for 3 months before harvest. Fruits may also be treated, but specific treatment schedules have mostly not been developed for Rhagoletis species, since there is no need for them in the USA. Ethylene dibromide was previously widely used as a fumigant but is now generally withdrawn because of its carcinogenicity.

Plants of host species transported with roots from countries where R. mendax occurs should be free from soil, or the soil should be treated against puparia, and should not carry fruits. Such plants may indeed be prohibited importation.

Gamma irradiation has also been advocated (Hallman and Thomas, 1999), as has carbon dioxide treatment (Prange and Lidster, 1992).


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Bancroft RP; Pree DJ; Toews DP, 1974. Comparative toxicities of some insecticides to the apple maggot. Journal of Economic Entomology, 67(4):481-483

Belanger A; Bostanian NJ; Rivard I, 1985. Apple maggot (Diptera: Trypetidae) control with insecticides and their residues in and on apples. Journal of Economic Entomology, 78(2):463-466.

Boller EF; Prokopy RJ, 1976. Bionomics and management of Rhagoletis. In: Smith RF, Mittler TE, Smith CN, ed. Annual review of entomology. Volume 21. Annual Reviews Inc. Palo Alto, California, USA, 223-246.

Bush GL, 1966. The taxonomy, cytology and evolution of the genus Rhagoletis in North America (Diptera: Tephritidae). Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, 134:431-526.

CABI/EPPO, 1998. Distribution maps of quarantine pests for Europe (edited by Smith IM, Charles LMF). Wallingford, UK: CAB International, xviii + 768 pp.

Christenson LD; Foote RH, 1960. Biology of fruit flies. Annual Review of Entomology, 5:171-192.

Economopoulos AP, 1989. Control; use of traps based on color and/or shape. In: Robinson AS, Hooper G, eds. Fruit Flies; Their Biology, Natural Enemies and Control. World Crop Pests 3(B): 315-327. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier.

EPPO, 1983. Data sheets on quarantine organisms. Set 6. EPPO Bulletin, 13(1). unnumbered.

EPPO, 2014. PQR database. Paris, France: European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization.

Foote RH; Blanc FL; Norrbom AL, 1993. Handbook of the Fruit Flies (Diptera: Tephritidae) of America North of Mexico. Ithaca, USA: Comstock.

Gaul SO; Neilson WTA; Estabrooks EN; Crozier LM; Fuller M, 1995. Deployment and utility of traps for management of Rhagoletis mendax (Diptera: Tephritidae). Journal of Economic Entomology, 88(1):134-139

Geddes PS; Blanc JPR le; Flanders KL; Forsythe HYJr, 1989. Installation of baited Pherocon AM traps for monitoring adult populations of Rhagoletis mendax (Diptera: Tephritidae) in lowbush blueberry fields. Environmental Entomology, 18(3):510-512

Geddes PS; Blanc JPR le; Yule WN, 1987. The blueberry maggot, Rhagoletis mendax (Diptera: Tephritidae), in eastern North America. Revue d'Entomologie du Quebec, 32(1-2):16-24

Guibord MO; Vincent C; Wood GW, 1985. Note on the distribution of the blueberry fly, Rhagoletis mendax (Diptera: Tephritidae), in Canada. [Note sur l'aire de distribution de la mouche du bleuet, Rhagoletis mendax (Diptera: Tephritidae), au Canada.] Phytoprotection, 66(1):63-67

Hallman GJ; Thomas DB, 1999. Gamma irradiation quarantine treatment against blueberry maggot and apple maggot (Diptera: Tephritidae). Journal of Economic Entomology, 92(6):1373-1376; 11 ref.

IPPC, 2010. Blueberry Maggot (Rhagoletis mendax Curran) - Update of the Regulated Areas within Canada. IPPC Official Pest Report, CAN-04/1. Rome, Italy: FAO.

IPPC, 2015. July 2015: Blueberry Maggot (Rhagoletis mendax Curran) - Expansion of Regulated Areas. IPPC Official Pest Report, No. CAN-46/1. Rome, Italy: FAO.

Liburd OE; Alm SR; Casagrande RA, 1998. Susceptibility of highbush blueberry cultivars to larval infestation by Rhagoletis mendax (Diptera: Tephritidae). Environmental Entomology, 27(4):817-821; 28 ref.

Liburd OE; Alm SR; Casagrande RA; Polavarapu S, 1998. Effect of trap color, bait, shape, and orientation in attraction of blueberry maggot (Diptera: Tephritidae) flies. Journal of Economic Entomology, 91(1):243-249; 22 ref.

Liburd OE; Gut LJ; Stelinski LL; Whalon ME; McGuire MR; Wise JC; Willett JL; Hu XingPing; Prokopy RJ, 1999. Mortality of Rhagoletis species encountering pesticide-treated spheres (Diptera: Tephritidae). Journal of Economic Entomology, 92(5):1151-1156; 20 ref.

Payne JA; Berlocher SH, 1995. Distribution and host plants of the blueberry maggot fly, Rhagoletis mendax (Diptera: Tephritidae) in southeastern North America. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 68(2):133-142

Pearson GA; Meyer JR, 1990. Discriminant model for predicting risk of blueberry maggot (Diptera: Tephritidae) infestations in southeastern North Carolina. Journal of Economic Entomology, 83(2):526-532

Prange RK; Lidster PD, 1992. Controlled-atmosphere effects on blueberry maggot and lowbush blueberry fruit. HortScience, 27(10):1094-1096

Smith JJ; Gavrilovic V; Smitley DR, 2001. Native Vaccinium spp. and Gaylussacia spp. infested by Rhagoletis mendax (Diptera: Tephritidae) in the Great Lakes region: a potential source of inoculum for infestation of cultivated blueberries. Journal of Economic Entomology, 94(6):1378-1385.

Steck GJ; Payne JA, 1993. Blueberry maggot, Rhagoletis mendax (Diptera: Tephritidae). Entomology Circular (Gainesville), No. 358:2 pp.

USDA, 1994. Treatment manual. Frederick, USA: USDA/APHIS.

White IM; Elson-Harris MM, 1994. Fruit flies of economic significance: their identification and bionomics. Wallingford, UK: CAB International. Reprint with addendum.

Distribution Maps

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