Flying-foxes and commercial crops

Flying-foxes can have an impact on commercial fruit growers, especially during prolonged native food shortages.

The best way to protect commercial crops from flying-foxes and other animals is to cover them with full-exclusion netting or throwover netting. Using netting also protects crops from hail damage.

The wrong type of netting can be deadly to wildlife. To avoid wildlife becoming trapped in your nets, wildlife friendly netting is recommended.

  • Never use thin nylon (monofilament) netting material as this can cause serious injuries.
  • Use durable knitted netting that you can't poke your finger through.
  • Use white netting so wildlife can see and avoid it.
  • Never throw netting loosely over trees as this can lead to entanglement, injury or death.
  • Use netting that is stretched taut and held away from the tree, or 2mm woven-mesh box-shaped nets with long skirts that gather around the trunk of the tree. An alternative is to drape shade cloth over fruit.
  • Regularly check that netting is secure, and that no wildlife has been trapped or hurt. 
Technique Method Success/comments
Netting – full-exclusion netting Netting held firmly in place by a rigid structure of poles and tensioned cables over the entire orchard. Very high.

Method is initially expensive to set up and may be damaged by cyclones, high wind and hail.
Netting – tunnel netting and throwover netting Netting that is supported by light frames or draped directly over trees and vines. Nets are reusable and removed after harvest.

See Wildlife Friendly Netting.
Less successful than full-canopy. Often suitable where full-exclusion netting is not, due to ease of set up.

Flying-foxes can damage fruit touching the net on the outside of the net.

Initial outlay may be less expensive than full-exclusion; however, set-up time must be repeated each year.
Bags Fruit protection bags placed over fruit. Reasonably successful. Has been used on banana crops.

Labour intensive and costly. Not feasible for most commercial farmers.
Sound Replaying recorded sounds, including sudden loud noises, natural predator calls or sonic sounds. Reports of medium success in the short term. However, flying-foxes may become accustomed to the sound if no danger presents.

May be more successful if combined with other methods such as light and radar detection systems (e.g. Phoenix Wailer).

Also more successful if sound, light and scaring options localities are rotated around the property (avoiding deterrent desensitisation).
Lights Flashing strobe lights and bright light grids over orchards; long wavelength lasers. Medium success in the short term. However, flying-foxes can become accustomed to the lights if no danger presents.

May be more successful if combined with other methods.

Also more successful if sound, light and scaring options localities are rotated around the property (avoiding deterrent desensitisation).

Between July 2011 and June 2017, the NSW Government implemented the Flying-fox Netting Subsidy Program to help eligible growers with the cost of installing exclusion netting as an alternative to shooting flying-foxes. The program was funded through the NSW Environmental Trust and is now closed.

The total investment of $7.1 million resulted in more than 686 hectares of fruit crop netted. This has protected crops from the impacts of flying-foxes, as well as birds and hail damage.

The Farm Innovation Fund provides low-cost loans for commercial orchardists to install netting to protect crops from damage.

Since 1 July 2021, the shooting of flying-foxes is not permitted in New South Wales.

An independent Flying-fox licensing review (PDF 2MB) determined that:

  • shooting is ineffective when larger numbers of flying-foxes visit orchards;
  • animal welfare issues that result from shooting flying-foxes are unacceptable ethically and legally; and
  • shooting is a contributing factor to the decline of the grey-headed flying-fox.

From July 2015 to June 2021, the Department of Planning and Environment only issued licences to shoot flying-foxes as a crop protection measure if flying-fox damage to orchards was the result of special circumstances (PDF 42KB). These licences were subject to strict limits.

Annual reports of licences issued