Apple moths spotted, Sonoma quarantined

May 5, 2008 6:45:33 PM PDT
A 15-square-mile area of Sonoma County is under quarantine tonight where a second light brown apple moth was found. And in Monterey, a special task force met to figure out how to deal with this pest amid so much concern about aerial spraying.

One environmental group is proposing an increased use of sticky traps in areas heavily infested with the light brown apple moth, commonly known know as LBAM. Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, along with the San Francisco Bay Area, are all considered LBAM infested.

David Dilworth pitched his trapping proposal to an environmental task forcel that makes recommendations to the State Department of Food and Agriculture.

"Hope believes that this non spraying, non toxic method will be at least as effective and 100 times more accountable than the aerial spraying," says Dilworth.

The state contends it would have to place thousands of traps per square mile, and checking and replacing those traps would be extremely labor intensive.

"Even if you could do all of that physically, you still wouldn't be able to eradicate the moth using that many traps. You'd still have moths 60 to 80 feet up in a tree," says Jay Van Rein of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

The state favors aerial spraying of a pheromone, which confuses the pest and keeps it from mating. Hundreds of people claim they got sick last fall after three aerial spraying operations. The Governor has delayed that approach until at least mid August while more tests are done on the health implications of another aerial assault.

Until a solution is found, growers in 11 counties face the threat of more crop quarantines -- which are already taking an economic toll.

"If they find an LBAM larvae or even a suspicious one, they have to hold the crop, and in the case of strawberries, they can't be held very long and there's loss from not being able to ship that crop," says Zea Sonnabend of the California Certified Organic Farmers.

The advisory task force has no deadline for making any recommendations to the state. On Thursday however, a lawsuit will move forward in Monterey County to try and stop any LBAM aerial spray. Last month, a judge did halt those operations in Santa Cruz County.


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