SACRAMENTO – The Santa Cruz Superior Court today denied a request to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against next week’s aerial pheromone treatment of the Santa Cruz area to combat the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) infestation. The request had been filed by Santa Cruz County. Treatment will proceed as scheduled, November 4-9.
“The court’s decision further establishes that this eradication project is a necessary and important step in protecting the environment, habitat and agriculture of California,” said California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura. “Invasive species such as this moth present an urgent and persistent threat, so we appreciate the court’s swift action to preserve next week’s scheduled treatment. The pheromone used in this eradication project is a remarkable alternative to conventional pesticides. It doesn’t even harm the moth—it merely confuses the male moths so they can’t find a mate. It truly is the most environmentally friendly eradication project we have ever conducted in this state.”
Prunedale/Royal Oaks Treatment Area Reduced
Two other treatment areas have not changed and will also be treated as planned November 4-9: the 41.5-square-mile North Santa Cruz zone (including Aptos, Soquel, Capitola, live Oak and Santa Cruz), and the 15.5-square-mile North Salinas/Boronda zone.
The reduction of the Prunedale/Royal Oaks zone removes an area at the northern end of the originally proposed treatment zone. A map indicating the updated treatment area is available on the CDFA web site:
Residents of the area that is being removed from the treatment zone will receive a postcard informing them of the change. This area is now slated to be treated along with other areas in the region in Spring 2008.
The reduction in the Prunedale treatment area is due to a reduced availability of the pheromone product Checkmate LBAM-F.
On the evenings of applications, CDFA has arranged to send an e-mail to subscribers announcing intended areas of treatment, weather permitting. And on mornings following treatment, CDFA intends to e-mail subscribers with results of the just-completed application. E-mails will include a link to a map showing progress.
Those interested in receiving e-mail updates may sign up at: http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/phpps/PDEP/lbam/lbam_main.html
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, 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.
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 has accepted for use by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the California Department of Forestry. Public health officials and toxicologists have stated that the pheromone does not appear to be toxic to people, pets or plants and that humans are unable to react to or even recognize insect pheromones. Additionally, widely respected environmental groups are accepting this approach: including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Monarch Watch, and the Monterey County-based Otter Project.
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