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CDFA Announces Plans, Tests for Apple Moth Control

(Beyond Pesticides, January 25, 2008) Officials with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently released their 2008 plan for eradicating the light brown apple moth from the Central Valley area of the state. In 2007, a state of emergency was declared to facilitate quicker action to control the moths, as CDFA reports that the infestation is spread throughout nine counties. The agency tried to disrupt the moths breeding patterns by spraying a pheremone, Checkmate LBAM-F, in several different rounds, but the problem remains. As a result, CDFA has a variety of strategies planned to wipe out the moths this year.

“The primary way to eradicate this pest remains aerial spraying,” according to CDFA spokesman Steve Lyle. “The expectation is that the program will move forward with that in mind in 2008.” However, on January 22, officials said that spraying will be postponed until late spring or early summer, when a better product has been found. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is currently conducting trials in New Zealand to determine which formulation is most effective against the moths. One of these forumulations would last longer than 30 days in the environment, allowing less frequent aerial applications in California. According to CDFA’s 2008 “Questions and Answers” sheet, “The products under consideration for aerial treatment contain the same pheremone but use different bio-degradable carriers.”

In the meantime, possible options include pheremone twist-ties (which will be applied in February), ground treatment with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and spinosad, used in “organically approved” forumulations, pheremone and permethrin applications on utility poles (eight feet above the ground), and the release of stingless trichogramma wasps, whose larvae feed on moth larvae. The latter two options have been used in New Zealand, where the light brown apple moth has spread beyond the possibility of eradication. A CDFA statement said, “These wasps will not bother over-wintering monarch butterflies and they would not be released threatened or endangered plants or butterflies or moths.”

The planned continuation of aerial spraying remains a target of local groups’ ire. Helping Our Peninsula’s Environment (HOPE), which, in October, led anti-spray litigation that resulted in a temporarily halt to spraying, expressed its disappointment over the announcement. “It shows their absolute hostility to anything but what they have already decided,” said HOPE’s David Dilworth. “They refuse to look at alternatives.” Nan Wishner, chair of the Albany Integrated Pest Management Task Force, emphasized, “The concern is that [the product] is used with aerial spraying.” In the first rounds of spraying, there were some reports of residents reacting negatively to Checkmate. The Albany City Council unanimously opposed the spray, and Councilmember Farid Javandel said, “Even a few people being hurt is not acceptable.”

Sources: CDFA Light Brown Apple Moth project page, The Berkeley Daily Planet, The Monterey County Herald, The Santa Cruz Sentinel, Central Valley Business Times


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