New year means new plans to eradiate light brown apple moth

January 23, 2008 5:40am
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•  Aerial pheromone spraying planned for late spring or early summer

•  Confusing the male is the goal

Life for the light brown apple moth could get more precarious in 2008 if plans by the California Department of Food and Agriculture work out.

The moth is seen as a major pest threat to crops in the Central Valley and other parts of the state. Left unchecked, it could damage or destroy 80 percent of all commercial crops in the state, the CDFA says.

CDFA says it will launch a new aerial spraying program in the nine counties in the San Francisco Bay Area in late spring in an effort to eliminate the pest once and for all.

A team of international light brown apple moth experts that believes the pest can be eradicated through the primary use of aerial pheromone treatments along with other techniques, CDFA says. A pheromone is a natural scent that an insect produces to communicate with a potential mate. Pheromone use for this pest works by confusing the male moth, which disrupts the mating cycle, thereby decreasing or eradicating the pest population. Pheromones are not harmful to people, pets or plants, CDFA says.

Specific plans for communities within the nine-county region are still under consideration and are dependent on variables including moth detections and funding as the program moves forward.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently field testing a number of new aerial pheromone products in New Zealand, with the goal of finding a product that lasts longer in the environment than 30 days, therefore requiring fewer aerial treatments.

While research in New Zealand continues, ground treatments are to resume soon. Pheromone treatments with twist ties will likely begin in February, on a date yet to be determined, the state says. Twist ties are applied by ground crews to host plants, trees and fence posts in isolated, lightly infested areas within the nine-county region.

Ground treatments with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a naturally-occurring bacteria, and spinosad, an extract from naturally-occurring bacteria, may be utilized in heavily infested areas where moth larvae have been detected, CDFA says.

The USDA and CDFA are also evaluating another method that would consist of a ground treatment featuring pheromone mixed with a small amount of pesticide that would attract and then kill male apple moths. The mixture would be applied out of reach, at a height of approximately eight feet, on utility poles and trees. While no specific treatment using this method has been scheduled yet, it may be used in the period when aerial pheromone products are being tested, CDFA says.

Additionally, the two agencies may introduce Trichogramma wasps, which are tiny and stingless, to help with eradication. The wasps lay their eggs inside moth eggs. The wasp larvae hatch and eat the host egg from the inside. These wasps will not bother over-wintering monarch butterflies and they would not be released near threatened or endangered plants or butterflies and moths, the department says.

The first confirmation of the Light Brown Apple Moth in the Bay Area came in February 2007. Since then, many thousands have been detected throughout the central coast region, in the counties of Monterey, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, Alameda and Solano. Small, isolated infestations detected last year in Los Angeles and Napa counties have already been eradicated.

The Light Brown Apple Moth is native to Australia and is found in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Hawaii. The range of host plants is broad with more than 2,000 plant species known to be susceptible to attack by this pest. It threatens California’s environment — including cypress, redwood and oak trees — and the food supply, CDFA says.

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Comments on this story

Forcibly CheckMated 1/23/08 4:14 PM
No mention at all of the hundreds of illnesses reported from the first round of spraying?

Alexandra 1/24/08 9:14 PM (
My name is Alexandra, and I live in Santa Cruz County. I was sprayed 2 times with the aerial spray Check mate LBAM-F. I got very sick from the spray and I hope to God they don't spray any more. My symptoms were; burning in my nose and thought, wheezy, tightens in and pain chest, shortness of breath, heavy pounding heart beat, sinus pain, tremors, dizziness, hot and cold flashes, chills, muscle aches and spasms, and woozy and sick. I know that this seems like a lot of symptoms and you probably don't want to believe that I even had a reaction at all. Well, some people that I spoke with after they sprayed us said they felt a little sick and some said they felt nothing while others said they felt as sick as I did. So not every one will have the same response to this chemical. So you must remember to look at the majority and not base opinions on just a small bit of information. Also, a lot of ocean birds died right after they sprayed us. All of the spray goes directly into the water supply. And what do you think about a chemical that will last in our environment for 30 days, then re applied every 30 days until the last moth is found dead. What will that be like? Think about that. Look up all of the chemicals that make up the spray. It is a chemically man made pheromone mixed with a lot of other chemicals. So please do not let the CDFA get away with telling you it's only a pheromone. We have a lot of chemicals that are hurting us in our air , water ,and soil already. We don't need any more. We must use another way to deal with this moth. This is not such an emergency that we need to overlook all possible health and environmental realities. This moth has not done any damage. Read about how England deals with it. Read how Hawaii deals with it. Read about how the people of Auckland New Zealand feel about being sprayed It took me several weeks for me to feel like my old healthy self after I got sprayed. So please take a good look at this issue OK. Think about your kids playing in the water and in the grass. Think about them breathing in spray day after day for years and how that will effect their health over time. Think about the spray building up in our ground water and in our soil over time. This is a real problem. This spray does not just vanish into thin air. It will be in our air and we will be breathing it for a long time. Not just a pheromone,but a bunch of man made chemicals made of plastics and urea and other things. Stuff that when mixed together make up other chemicals. And then there is this surfactant they use to make it spray out of the airplane nozzles. That is what may have been linked with killing all the ocean birds. It took the oil off of there feathers and made it so they could not float any more so they drowned. Please pay very close attention to this subject.Don't read about this on the CDFA's website. They only want to tell you that we are in an emergency and that the spray won't hurt you. Keep your mind open and beware of wolves's in sheep's clothing!

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