Friday, 19 July 2024

Light brown apple moth found in Sonoma County

NORTH COAST – An invasive pest that has caused major concern for state and federal agriculture officials since its discovery in California last year is moving closing to Lake County, with the confirmation this week that the moth has been found in neighboring Sonoma County.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) reported Friday that a single male light brown apple moth was found in a trap that was part of a 613-trap array deployed in the county as part of the state's detection program.

The tiny moth, native to Australia, has a mighty appetite, with hundreds of major crops – including winegrapes, pears and other North Coast commodities – among them.

The discovery trigged more trapping in the immediate area to determine if additional moths are present, CDFA reported. If they are, officials will carry out eradication efforts, and quarantines to limit movement of plants, produce and yard waste will be put in place.

That doesn't count the damage to interstate commerce, because many states have now issues restrictions on California produce because of the moth. Internationally, trade partners Mexico and Canada have imposed export regulations on California because of the moth infestation.

Those restrictions on trade with Mexico could have serious implications for local farmers if the moth were to be found here, because Mexico has banned pears that come from infested counties.

In an interview with Lake County News last May, Chuck Morse, the county's deputy agriculture commissioner, said a large quantify of local Bartlett pears are shipped to Mexican markets.

Currently, there are no detection traps in Lake County for the light brown apple moth, according to a CDFA report. In December, 126 had been reported in the county.

CDFA has categorized the moth as a “Class A” pest – it's most serious rating – because of the risks it poses to the state's multibillion-dollar agriculture industry.

Officials also warn the moth could damage the natural environment, causing damage to park lands and California's beloved redwoods, cypress and oak trees.

Since the discovery of a light brown apple moth was confirmed in the Bay Area in February 2007, more than 17,000 of the moths have been found in 14 counties.

Sonoma is the second of Northern California's major wine country counties to find the moth.

Last May, the moth was found in Napa County. Since then, a second moth has been found there, but CDFA said Friday that Napa's small, isolated infestation has been eradicated, thanks – in part – to a “twist tie” treatment that emits a pheromone to confuse the moth and prevent it from breeding. The twist ties also were used to rid Los Angeles of its own small infestation.

In response to the infestation, Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) introduced the Light Brown Apple Moth Act of 2007, which established the Light Brown Apple Moth Program in the CDFA and created an account from which the department can allocate funds to local agencies for eradication activities.

Last September, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into the bill into law.

CDFA and the US Department of Agriculture are working together to conduct the light brown apple moth eradication program.

As part of that program, they've implemented aerial spraying of moth pheromone over Central Coast communities. The spraying has resulted in public outcry and hundreds of health complaints which the agencies have maintained are not related to the pheromone.

Aerial spraying is supposed to take part over some Bay Area communities beginning this summer as part of this year's eradication program, which has resulted in resolutions against the spraying by the city councils of Albany and Berkeley. Additionally, Berkeley is threatening to sue the state.

Last week, several Bay Area legislators introduced a suite of bills that would, among other things, place controls on the state secretary of agriculture's power to direct an eradication effort and require more notifications and studies before spraying in urban areas.

Earlier this year, USDA dedicated nearly $74 million to the effort, which will include a nationwide survey to see if the moth has spread to other states besides California and Hawaii.

Officials said they plan to closely look at the nursery industry, as it's believed the moth – like so many invasive species – entered the United States in imported plant materials.

A USDA study estimates that if California becomes generally infested, the moth could cause as much as $640 million annually in crop damage.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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