(Beyond Pesticides, August 27, 2007) Santa Clara County agriculture officials are hopeful that “mating disruption technology” – not pesticides – will eradicate the light brown apple moth, a tiny invasive pest that has been found in several areas of the county and is a threat to crops and plants.
Eight-inch “twist-tie” dispensers, which contain an odorless, synthetic pheromone, have been placed on plants and objects such as fence posts in the area immediately around where a moth was found last month in the Santa Teresa area of San Jose.
In addition, it’s likely that a new quarantine area will be established in the Alum Rock area of San Jose, where a single moth was found recently.
Since late February, the moth – native to Australia but established in Hawaii, New Zealand and Great Britain, among other places – has been identified in 11 California counties. More than 40,000 traps have been placed in the affected counties.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has posted maps of all the quarantine areas on its Web site and is urging residents in the affected areas to not remove plant materials from their homes. Instead people should dispose of green waste in an approved green waste bin provided by their county.
Kevin O’Day, deputy agriculture commissioner for Santa Clara county, said that the pheromone dispensers being used in Santa Teresa target adult male moths. The pheromone confuses them, impairing their ability to find mates. If this effort is successful, it will not be necessary to spray pesticides, he said. “Once the breeding cycle of the moth is broken, the light brown apple moth population is reduced and ultimately eradicated.”
Only the properties closest to where the moth was found will be treated with the twist-ties – not the entire quarantine area. About 40 dispensers will be placed at each property. After 90 days, they will be removed or replaced. Residents in the treatment area have been notified, Mr. O’Day said.
“In the treatment areas, we’ve had very little apprehension or concern,” he said. A meeting Monday at the Santa Teresa Library was sparsely attended, but Mr. O’Day said his department is “thrilled with the level of cooperation we’ve been receiving.”
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to try a new technology that has a great track record overseas,” Mr. O’Day said of the pheromone dispensers, which recently were given fast-track approval by federal and state pesticide regulators.
The half-inch-long light brown apple moth – which resembles many species of harmless moths – is making its first appearance in the continental United States. The pest is of particular concern because the moth’s larvae destroys, stunts or deforms young seedlings, spoils the appearance of ornamental plants and injures deciduous fruit-tree crops, citrus and grapes. The host list includes more than 250 species.
Agriculture officials want to eradicate the pest first in lightly infested areas around the edges of the region to curb its spread outward. This strategy is consistent with recommendations handed down in May by an international “technical working group,” a panel of nine scientists who met over three days in San Jose to study the infested areas.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it will supply $15 million to combat the moth’s infestation in California, which threatens the state’s $31.8 billion agricultural industry. The money will cover expenditures already incurred and projected expenses for the rest of 2007.
Source: San Jose Mercury News