AN ENTIRE suburb in New Zealand has been put on 'lockdown' and the nation is on red alert after the capture of a feared invader.
Jitters spread throughout the country after the discovery of a single male Queensland fruit fly, described as the world's worst fruit pest.
It was trapped in the Auckland suburb of Mount Roskill and resulted in the entire area being declared a "controlled zone", meaning that no fruit or vegetables can be removed.
Such is the concern about the discovery of the tiny fly, which is about twice the size of a match head, that Primary Industries Minister David Carter ordered the country's trading partners, which include Britain, about the alarm.
Fruit flies are feared by all fruit-producing nations because they puncture the skin to lay their eggs.
The fruit surrounding the egg begins to rot and then, when the eggs hatch, the maggots start gnawing through the rest of the fruit causing it to fall, wasted, to the ground.
The single fly found in the Auckland suburb has terrified the government, which regards it as a sign that others might be prevalent, threatening the ú2 billion ($F5.9billion) fruit and vegetable export industry.
As the biochemistry experts searched the suburb for other flies, Mr Carter said this was a potentially serious biosecurity issue and it was important to start notifying the country's trading partners.
"We need to quickly find out whether this trapping involves a single insect or whether a breeding population has been established - in which case an eradication response will be commenced immediately," he said.
Peter Silcock, chief executive of Horticulture New Zealand, said the industry, which is in the middle of its export season, was waiting with "bated breath" for further developments.
Queensland fruit flies "sting" fruit - the fruit surrounding the egg begins to rot and then, when the eggs hatch, the maggots start gnawing through the rest of the fruit causing it to fall, wasted, to the ground
"There's only one fly, it's a male and we're hoping that's all there is," he said.
It is the first time a fruit fly has been discovered in New Zealand since the discovery of a Mediterranean fruit by in 1996.
It is believed the Queensland fruit fly has arrived through fresh fruit - but there are fears that others have come with it.
Mr Carter said that "while it is a serious potential issue, I don't we we should over-react if we are dealing with a single trapping."