The light brown apple moth (LBAM) may be a native pest to Australia, but it has made its way to California – and most recently Yolo County.
Woodland discovered the second light brown apple moth late last month and is considering implementing a quarantine.
Steve Lyle, California Department of Food and Agriculture director of public affairs, said Woodland does not officially have a quarantine in place for the LBAM, although there will be one in the future.
“We are still working on establishing the regulations and it will be a little while longer until we have that in place,” Lyle said.
Nine LBAMs have been found in Davis since 2008, causing concern throughout the county. A fully-established moth infestation could cost California over $100 million in damage, Yolo County Supervisor Helen Thomson said in a press release.
LBAMs are considered pests because they destroy plants such as citrus, grapes and deciduous fruit tree crops. The quarantine will impact nurseries, landscapers, packing houses and green waste handlers.
Yolo County Agriculture Commissioner John Young said the quarantine will not be noticeable to the average Yolo County resident, but anyone transporting products that may move the LBAM with them should know the county regulations.
“Quarantines are very effective,” Young said. “They are used all the time up and down the state.”
The Bay Area is already infested with the LBAM, while Yolo County only has 11 reported moths, making it an outlier population. In San Francisco County there are 81,000 moths, Santa Cruz County 70,000 and in Alameda County 47,000 moths, Young said.
The quarantine will be funded by the state, but Lyle from the CDFA declined to state how much a quarantine in Woodland would cost.
Lucia Varela, Integrated Pest Management advisor for UC Cooperative Extension, has been studying LBAM and visited New Zealand to examine how the country is controlling the pest.
“Usually when an exotic pest comes in the state they can do several things,” Varela said. “[The state] could decide it is everywhere and not do anything about it or they can decide to eradicate or control.”
In Woodland and the Davis area, Yolo County decided to attempt to eradicate and control the pest. Many debate the issue as many other exotic pests have made it into California.
“It’s a bad pest, but it can be managed,” Varela said.
Even the LBAMs date of entry into California is a bone of contention, said Varela, but it is mostly agreed that it was first found in 2006 by a UC Berkeley professor. The pace at which the pest has spread throughout the state has yet to be proven.
“The genetic variability in California [LBAMs] is similar to the genetic variability to moths in Australia,” Varela said.
This evidence leads many to believe the California LBAM was brought in from Australia, the native land of the pest.
SASHA LEKACH can be reached at email@example.com.