A second Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) has been found in Yolo County after one was discovered in April, causing the California Department of Food and Agriculture to establish a quarantine in the area.
The LBAM is an invasive species native to Australia that likely “hitched” its way to the United States via “plane, train or automobile,” said Steve Lyle of the Department of Food and Agriculture.
“It feeds on crops, trees and ornamental plants,” Lyle said. “In Australia they call it the light brown ‘everything‘ moth.”
Though the presence of two small moths in the city of Davis may seem harmless, officials say the LBAM threatens the agriculture and food supply of Yolo County. Rick Landon, Yolo County Agriculture Commissioner, said that the moth is a “generalist feeder” and eats over 2,000 different plant species and 250 kinds of crops.
“The light brown apple moth is a non-native species,” Landon said. “Without its natural enemies, the populations can grow unchecked.“
The LBAM has been detected in California before. The first moth was found in Alameda County in March 2007, and further investigation found it to be present in 11 other California counties. Controversies have arisen over the proper way to control the pest, and many people complained when the state announced a plan to spray pheromones into the air to interfere with the moth’s mating cycle.
There have also been questions as to whether the LBAM is even much of a threat.
“It is not that big of a concern as a pest,” James Carey, entomology professor at UCD, told The California Aggie in April. “It’s no different than any other leafroller pest that we already have in the state.”
Lyle said the Department of Food and Agriculture believes the pest is risky enough to merit a quarantine.
“The LBAM has the potential to cause damage to the environment and our food supply,” he said.
Due to the potential harm the LBAM can cause if it continues to spread, both a state interior and a federal quarantine have been invoked in Yolo County. These will affect shipment of produce within the state and outside of the state, and will place restrictions on the disposal of green waste.
“Producers could face restrictions,” Lyle said. “And we would ask people not to move host material off their property – fruit trees, etc.”
Residents of Yolo County need not worry about increased pesticides or airborne chemicals, as Landon has stated that aerial spraying is not an option.
“We will also continue to do delimitation trapping,” Landon said, “which is where we place around 300 traps around each place the moth is found.”
SARAH HANSEL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.