SACRAMENTO – On October 9, pheromone treatments will resume in Monterey County. These treatments involve the release of a pheromone designed to confuse male light brown apple moths (LBAM) and keep them from locating a mate. The pheromones are scheduled to be applied aerially over approximately 60 square miles including the communities of Marina, Seaside, Sand City, Del Rey Oaks, Monterey and Pacific Grove, the same area that was treated earlier this month. The application will utilize three planes and occur over four nights, through October 12, weather permitting. Additional nights would be necessary in the event of delays. Residents within the treatment zone will receive notices informing them of the dates.
Additionally, CDFA and the USDA are announcing that aerial pheromone treatments in several other Central Coast locations are scheduled from November 4 through November 9, weather permitting. The new locations are divided into three segments: a 15.5 square mile zone including North Salinas/Boronda; a 39.6 square mile zone including Prunedale/Royal Oaks; and the 41.5 square mile North Santa Cruz Zone, including Aptos, Soquel, Capitola, Live Oak and Santa Cruz.
A map of these regions is available at http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/phpps/PDEP/lbam/lbam_main.html
A schedule of public meetings and informational open houses to discuss the project in the new areas will be announced soon. Residents in these areas will also receive notices by mail detailing both the treatment schedule and the planned meetings.
An environmental assessment of the program prepared by the USDA is available at the following link:
“This is the most environmentally friendly pest eradication program in the history of the California Department of Food and Agriculture,” said CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura. “For years, environmental groups have been asking us for alternatives to pesticides. We are pleased that we can offer a program that works biologically to eliminate the light brown apple moth.”
While conventional insecticides are designed to kill insects, pheromones are designed to distract or confuse them so that they cannot breed. In nature, the pheromone is released by the female moth to attract a mate. The “scent” is undetectable to humans and is highly specific to the light brown apple moth and a couple of closely related species, so it does not affect other kinds of insects or animals. The aerial releases are intended to surround the local moth population with pheromone so that the male moths can’t locate the female moths. The moth population will decline and collapse as the rate of breeding slows and eventually subsides. The pheromone remains effective for about a month. It will not affect monarch butterflies or other endangered butterfly species in the coastal area.
The pheromone, an odorless material called Checkmate LBAM-F, has been reviewed and approved by the federal EPA and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation; and is considered acceptable for use by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The product has been registered for over a decade with no reports of any health or environmental effects. Toxicologists have stated that the pheromone shows no evidence of toxicity to people, pets or plants, and that humans are unable to react to or even recognize insect pheromones. Widely respected environmental groups also consider this approach acceptable, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Monarch Watch, and the Monterey County-based Otter Project. The product does not harm the organic certification of organic crops grown in treatment areas.
The contractor for the aerial applications is Dynamic Aviation, the same company that CDFA has contracted with for several years to release sterile Mediterranean fruit flies to prevent infestations in the Los Angeles basin. The company will fly three King Air twin-turbine aircraft flying at an altitude of approximately 500-800 feet to release the pheromone, using Salinas Municipal Airport as their base of operations. Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) systems will guide the pilots on preset grids.
Over the past few months, Central Coast and East Bay communities have been part of a regional quarantine that has helped keep the infestation from spreading to other areas of the state. The pheromone treatments are the next step toward eradication. Pheromone releases in other infested areas will be planned as the program progresses.
The light brown apple moth is of particular concern because it can damage a wide range of crops and other plants including the Central Coast’s prized cypress as well as redwoods, oaks and many other varieties commonly found in our urban and suburban landscaping, public parks, and natural environment. The list of agricultural crops that could be damaged by this pest includes grapes, citrus, stone fruits (peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries, apricots) and many others. The complete “host list” contains well over 250 plant species. The pest damages plants and crops by feeding on leaves, new shoots and fruit.
California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Public Affairs
1220 N St., Ste. 214, Sacramento, CA 95814