Officials plan to eradicate Apple Moth

February 13, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
California's plan to eradicate the crop-destroying "light brown Apple Moth" now includes spraying pesticide in parts of the Bay Area.

It is tiny, but the light brown Apple Moth is highly invasive -- destroying everything from ornamental plants to fruits and vegetables.

On Wednesday, Marin county residents met with state agricultural officials who hosted an open house-information session in San Rafael.

The state hopes to eradicate the Apple Moth, in part, by hanging pheromone-infused twist-ties on trees -- the chemical is known to disrupt the mating process.

Employees with the California Department of Food and Agriculture will begin hanging these twist ties early next month. They'll use about 40 per residential property.

The Apple Moth, first spotted in the U.S. last year -- is now confined to nine counties. The twist ties will be used in certain areas of San Rafael, Ross, Half Moon Bay and Pescadero.

Then, in august, aerial spraying of the pheromone is scheduled to begin over 11 cities from Marin to the East Bay. It's that part of the state's plan that isn't sitting well with those who live in the affected areas.

"I think if you ask most people if they have a right to control what they ingest the answer is going to be duh," said Marin County resident Reede Stockton.

Steven Scholl-Buckwald is with the advocacy group Pesticide Action Network.

"I think they're spraying for political reasons. It demonstrates a full out press to keep USDA from slapping a quarantine on," said Steven Scholl-Buckwald from the Pesticide Action Network.

But state AG officials say there's nothing political about their motives. They say aerial spraying is the most effective way to get rid of the Apple Moth.

It's something the experts agree that we can eradicate if we move quickly. What we're trying to do is eradicate it in the smallest possible areas before it has a chance to spread," said Jay Van Rein from the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Much is at stake. The USDA says the apple moth has the potential to cause up to $640 million dollars in crop damage every year.