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.