Long Beach Hosts Trial Of Method To Eradicate Moth ‘Pest’
July 20, 2011 2 Comments
by Tiffany Rider, Staff Writer
One-square mile area of Long Beach is being used as an evaluation area of the effectiveness of an eradication program to eliminate the infestation of the light brown apple moth. The evaluation area extends from Ocean Boulevard north to 8th Street and from Temple Avenue east to Ximeno Avenue.
With the support of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), California Department of Food and Agriculture (CFA) and the County of Los Angeles Agriculture Commissioner, an evaluation began on June 16 in which 100,000 to 500,000 sterilized moths are released weekly to disrupt the reproductive process of these pests. The process, called sterile insect technique, has been used to eradicate other invasive insects but is in the trial phases for eradicating the moth.
The light brown apple moth, a quarter-inch moth species, is a declared pest nationally and internationally. It was first discovered in California in 2007 and has threatened nurseries and agricultural crops in 20 counties. The moth, which is native to Australia, has been attacked over the years through quarantine measures such as aerial spraying of synthetic pheromones to disrupt mating and releasing wasps that kill the moth.
Long Beach was selected for an evaluation of the sterile insect technique because of the heavily concentrated infestation in the city, according to the supporting agencies.
Greg Simmons, an entomologist with the USDA, said the moth attacks a number of crops that make for crop losses and hurt the agriculture business. The moth does not make the crops toxic, but causes physical damage to fruits such as grapes, apples, pears, peach, citrus and berry crops.
“We’re trying to learn about how long the moths live, how long they fly, traps to count the numbers of moths and wild pest moths,” he said. “How we’re doing and how far they’re moving and how they’re living.” The sterile insect technique method, he said, could be used as a tool in addition with wasps or possibly a replacement for synthetic pheromone spraying.
A public open house event was held on June 8 at Recreation Park to inform community members of the evaluation. Simmons said only three residents attended, although notifications were placed on the door of the nearly 4,000 homes within the trial area. Representatives from Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe’s office, as well as representatives of elected officials in Long Beach were also in attendance, Simmons said.