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Monterey County to see fresh efforts against apple moth



But no chemical sprays are expected

California has no plans to spray chemicals in the air to eradicate the light brown apple moth, the state's top pest control official said Friday. The California Department of Food and Agriculture's acting director of pest prevention, Robert Leavitt, said the department is looking at other means to rid the state of the invasive insect. His comments came during a call with reporters to announce the release of the final environmental impact report on the state's moth eradication program.

In late 2007 and early 2008, the CDFA sprayed a substance that mimicked the insect's sex pheromones to keep them from finding mates. The effort caused a firestorm of complaints in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties and the Bay Area.

County residents including Mike Lynberg of Pacific Grove opposed the actions on health grounds. He set up a post office box and Craigslist account to catalog health complaints when the CDFA sprayed Monterey County twice and Santa Cruz County once in 2007.

"Time has made it more clear than ever for me that what they did was a travesty," said Lynberg, who collected hundreds of symptom reports.

In November 2008, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and the departments of Pesticide Regulation and PublicHealth released an after-the-fact report on the spray's toxicology. The agencies concluded that while ill effects were unlikely, they couldn't be disproved.

Many are concerned that, with rural spraying still on the table, Monterey County could be at risk from the CDFA's program.

David Dilworth, the head of the organization Helping Our Peninsula's Environment, says that if the agency treats rural areas, the fog might still float to cities.

"There are lots of places in Monterey County that have less than 100 people per square mile right next to highly populated areas," Dilworth said.

But agriculture officials worry the Australian moth could inflict heavy damage on crops.

One of two eradication techniques that Leavitt said were the "preferred alternatives" would involve baiting twist ties with female-attracting scent to overwhelm the moths' mating urges. The other approach would be to release sterile males in infested areas to disrupt the female moth mating cycle. 

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Salinas Pest Control - Non Native Pests Becoming a Big Problem


Fruit flies to wild boars to French broom, alien species are changing Monterey County.

Silent and persistent, intruders arrive in county and disrupt natural order

Peering into a magnifying glass, Brad Oliver scans 2,000-plus small insect traps a month.

In the broken wings and inert bodies, he seeks signs of trouble to come.

"If it's suspicious, I take a closer look," said Oliver, a veteran biologist with the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner's Office.

"It's part of my job."

Fifteen miles west in a Quonset hut-like structure on an open field at California State University, Monterey Bay, Christina McKnew works on the same perplexing problem as Oliver.

Beneath a thick plastic roofing that diffuses the direct sunlight, she tends to thousands of fledgling native plants.

McKnew and Oliver share a concern over alien species invading Monterey County.

Such species can arrive in various forms - non-native plants, insects, mammals, aquatic beings, even fungi.

They threaten crops, crowd out native plants and animals and menace public health.

Oliver checks the small traps for signs of invasive insects.

McKnew, who manages greenhouses for CSUMB's Watershed Institute's Return of the Natives program, focuses on growing native plants.

Once ready, the plants are reintroduced in spots along Salinas creeks, on the former Fort Ord, behind the library in Marina and at other points degraded by alien species.

Little by little, such species encroach, often undetected, Oliver and McKnew said.

Nor does the public grasp the severity of the encroachment, they said.

That's why a nonporous inspection program at state and national borders is essential in controlling the problem, Oliver said.

"We need to monitor for these species," he said. "They're easier to control when you find them in the early stages."

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