On a recent trip along the coast I asked a number of growers for comments on flying foxes. Beside the most obvious comment, which I will not print, a number of observations and control methods were recorded. This year appears to be one of the worst years for fruit damage in all areas.
Some comments on food preferences were noted. Under similar conditions it appears that they prefer lychee to mango. High on the list were stone fruit, lychee and Panama berry, while other favoured fruits include mango, pawpaw, casimiroa and banana.
Numerous control measures were seen and discussed. The most effective appears to be netting. Various size fish nets and a black plastic bird net were commonly used. There were strung in a variety of ways. One style was the complete covering of the tree. This method was seen at Sing's near Cardwell. Nets were sewn to form bottomless cubes that were supported over each tree by four bamboo poles. It is costly, but effective in stopping flying foxes, birds, fruit sucking moths and elephant beetles. It also trapped snakes.
A less elaborate method was the vertical stringing of nets around the perimeter of the orchard. The top of the nets being just above the tree tops. Other nets were strung occasionally about the orchard. More information on the method can be obtained from the Maroochy Horticultural Research Station near Nambour.
Noel Hall, a lychee grower at Matarnee near Townsville, uses approximately 30% shade cloth dropped over the row of trees. The net is erected each night and removed each morning. This method reduces damage by beetles, moths, birds and flying foxes and doesn't require a great deal of effort to erect and recover.
Other control methods included variations of the sonic scare device, various flashing lights and repetitive noises, scare devices such as hoses and tyre tubes being in the tree, silver reflectors, carbide, poison and shot guns (usually manned by local enthusiasts).
Flying foxes will favour fruit high in the tree, but if forced, they will crawl around the lower branches. Most of the tops of the taller lychee trees at Herb Bosworth's orchard were denuded of fruit, leaving the panicle sticks looking like the trees were given a crew cut.
At present (1987) flying foxes are not a protected animal in Queensland while on your orchard.
Early this year, a book of papers from a recent conference on flying foxes held at the Queensland University will be available. Another interesting source of information is the CSIRO Bulletin 53 "The Flying Fox (Pteropus) in Australia" by F.N. Ratcliffe 1931. This 81-page booklet is old but very easy to read.
Observations on which plants are eaten and which are not should be recorded. The habits and frequency of the animals may also give a lead to their control.
DATE: January 1987
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