Shoo Moth Don’t Bother Me!

August 18, 2008

We’ve warned about dangers that threaten our pastoral Woodside way of life – fire, for instance, Equine Herpes Virus and Sudden Oak Death. Now we want to make sure you are aware of a threat to agriculture and plants in our area from the light brown apple moth. These creatures have now been found in Woodside.

According to the San Mateo County Department of Agriculture and Weights and Measures, “The Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) is a small moth, approximately 1/4 inch in length, and is generally tan with some darker markings. It is originally from Australia and has also infested New Zealand, New Caledonia, Hawaii and the British Isles. A picture of the pest is available at the Department’s Apple Moth page.

The moth feeds on hundreds of different varieties of plants. While authorities believe that the imported pest originally found a home in large-scaled nurseries, they now think that the moths are feeding in gardens on flowers, fruits, and other plants. The USDA’s website states, “LBAM is of particular concern because it can damage a wide range of crops and other plants including California’s prized cypress as well as redwoods, oaks and many other varieties commonly found in California’s 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 fruit (peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries, apricots) and many others. The complete “host list” contains well over 1,000 plant species and more than 250 fruits and vegetables.”

As you can see in this quarantine map, moths have been detected in Woodside proper. It’s for that reason – the 79% increase in light brown apple moths since February – that Woodside and other areas of the Peninsula have been put in the quarantine zone. Residents within the quarantine areas are being asked to help prevent the spread of this serious agricultural pest by not moving plants, flowers, fruits or vegetables from their property.

Originally the state and federal governments were planning on spraying chemicals over urban areas in an effort to eradicate or control the moth, but in the face of strong resistance from activist groups, aerial spraying in populated areas has been called off. The groups were concerned over the possibility of impacts on human health and safety from the spraying. The government contends that, rather than backing down to political pressure from citizens, a new technology allowing the breeding of thousands of sterile male moths just happened to be available sooner. We applaud the groups that raised these concerns , and despite government denials, believe that their vocal opposition forced the state to find a safer method of combating the threat of the light brown apple moth.

Along with the releasing of sterile moths, a recent San Jose Mercury article reported on the COWnty’s management efforts which include spreading 3,000 traps to capture moths, as well as the use of pheromones in the coast region to try to disrupt their breeding patterns. We appreciate our COWnty’s efforts. There is some good news – the USDA’s website states that prompt action since the bug was discovered on the mainland in 2007 has contained the moth within the wider initial detection area, and has eradicated the moth from Napa and Los Angeles counties.

As a citizen and homeowner, you can help too. COWnty officials say that citizens who live in the quarantine zone – which of course does now include Woodside – should refrain from giving away flowers, plants, or fruit from their land. Additionally since yard trimmings might also contain hidden moth eggs that could spread the moth further, it should be placed in covered yard recycling containers or composted on site.

Hopefully with strong and smart action, we can all help reduce the impact of this pest and keep Woodside and California green.

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