More Santa Clara County gardeners will find themselves in a quarantine zone following two new discoveries of the invasive agricultural pest known as the light brown apple moth.
The new boundary, set by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, includes an additional 64 square miles in the Milpitas area. The line drawn by the state runs from south of the Santa Clara County line to about Mt. Hamilton Road in the east foothills, said department spokesman Steve Lyle.
The CDFA also added about 18 square miles to the quarantine zone in the Sebastopol area of Sonoma County. With the additions, approximately 2,414 square miles are now under quarantine statewide.
County agriculture officials are reminding
"People who are unsure if they are within the quarantine zone are asked to assume that they are," Lyle said. Up-to-date maps are available at www.cdfa.ca.gov/lbam.
There have been 154 confirmed "finds" in Santa Clara County since monitoring began nearly two years ago CDFA numbers show. That's a low figure compared to Santa Cruz County, where more than 28,000 of the pests have been positively identified. San Francisco and Monterey counties are the state's No. 2 and 3 hot zones, with 25,428 and 6,944 finds respectively.
Statewide, more than 71,000 of the moths
Scientists believe that the half-inch-long apple moth — which resembles many species of harmless moths — made its first appearance in the continental United States in Berkeley in February 2007. Its reach goes way beyond apples. The pest, which is native to Australia, is of particular concern because its larva destroys, stunts or deforms young seedlings, spoils the appearance of ornamental plants and harms deciduous fruit-tree crops, citrus and grapes.
The host list includes more than 250 species — including most of the fruits and vegetables and many of the popular ornamental plants found in home gardens. Of course, looming larger than the inconvenience to backyard horticulturists is the fear that this invasive pest will threaten the state's multibillion-dollar agriculture industry.
Agricultural losses to all exotic pests in California exceed $3 billion annually, according to the Center for Invasive Species Research at University of California-Riverside. Agriculture officials do not know how the apple moth landed in California.
Some eradication efforts have been controversial.
Last June, state and federal agriculture officials dropped plans to broaden an aerial spraying program to urban areas in the Bay Area and Monterey Bay region. In 2007, some coastal areas were sprayed with CheckMate LBAM-F, a pheromone, or scent, that confuses the male moth and distracts them from mating. The spray does not kill the moth.
Critics of the spraying program contended that the substance caused respiratory problems in humans and contained materials that were not thoroughly tested. Lawsuits were filed, and public protests were held. Aerial applications of the pheromone were never part of the eradication plan in Santa Clara County because the infestation here is quite low. Instead, officials have been placing sticky traps and "twist-ties" containing the pheromone on vegetation near where moths have been found.
The latest strategy — yet to be tried — has been taken from the playbook the state is using to control the notorious Mediterranean fruit fly, another invasive pest. In that effort, sterile fruit flies are released aerially to interrupt the mating cycle. A date to start releasing sterile moths has not been set, but Lyle said it probably would be later this year.
Contact Holly Hayes at email@example.com or (408) 920-5374.