DECIMATED: Severnlea grower Tony Romeo at his property where the  influx of flying foxes is destroying his fruit.
DECIMATED: Severnlea grower Tony Romeo at his property where the influx of flying foxes is destroying his fruit. Matthew Purcell

Farmers and residents driven batty

A COLONY of crop- destroying flying foxes is proving catastrophic to some parts of the Stanthorpe region, with one producer predicting he'll need to permanently demolish his stone fruit trees, shutting down this sector of his business.

Severnlea farmer Tony Romeo is expecting the ruinous effects of this year's flying fox season will force him to bulldoze his 5000 stone fruit trees - including peaches, plums and nectarines - because of the large-scale damage they are suffering.

Mr Romeo, who is in the process of applying for a State Government damage mitigation permit, said the flying foxes were destroying about 20 per cent of his income and he was also concerned about the health risks posed to himself and fruit pickers.

"The flying foxes are landing in the trees and making a big mess," he said.

"Half of the fruit falls on the ground, they take some, eat it and come back and take some more. It ruins the tops of the trees.

"I'm just glad that most of them fly past and don't land in the trees or I'd have nothing left."

Mr Romeo, who also farms crops such as capsicum and tomatoes, said the bats afflicted his property annually but he believed the problem was getting worse.

"They used to come once every three to five years and now they're here without fail every year," he said.

Mr Romeo, whose neighbour is also battling the bats, said he did not know how he could stop them destroying his crops.

He's also worried about potential health threats as there were flying fox droppings "everywhere".

Southern Downs Regional Council pest management officer Craig Magnussen stressed the council had limited power and expertise to deal with the problem.

"We understand the impacts but we're quite limited in what we can do," he said.

The council was made aware of the Caves Rd colony about a month ago, where there were "several hundred" grey-headed flying foxes but by last week the population had risen to about 5000.

Mr Magnussen said other councils had tried to move colonies with poor results.

"In Toowoomba the council spent half a million dollars to move bats and it didn't work," he said.

Stanthorpe Border Post

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