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Manteca ground zero in moth fight
Eradication starts in December to protect ag crops
light brown apple moth1
The light brown apple moth that poses a major danger to San Joaquin County agriculture as well as ornamental landscaping. - photo by Photo Contributed
A small paper clip dwarfs it but don’t let the light brown apple moth fool you.

It has the potential to devastate a large chunk of San Joaquin County’s $2.1 billion annual agricultural production, cost thousands of area jobs, and lay waste to ornamental plants in Manteca neighborhoods.

The first Central Valley confirmation of reproducing light brown apple moths has occurred in Manteca.

It is prompting an aggressive response from the California Department of Agriculture. The agency is establishing quarantine areas and will comb infected areas wearing khaki uniforms to put in place an average of 30 to 40 Isomate-coated twist ties in mid-December in a bid to stop the spread of the devastating pest.

The confirmations were made in the 100 block of Marie Avenue and on Wawona Street at Dill Way. The twist tie - which resembles those used for garbage bags but are coated with an odorless, synthetic insect sexual attractant that confuses the male light brown apple moth and impairs its ability to find a mate – will be tied to trees and bushes in the front and back yards of homes within about a 250-yard radius of the confirmed find of reproducing light brown apple moths.

The ties do not contain any insecticide. Aerial spraying was nixed by a lawsuit brought in Santa Cruz County making the twist tie approach is the only  effective weapon to stop the spread of the non-native moths.

The Wawona treatment area is generally bounded on the west by El Portal Avenue, to the north at a point midway between Wawona and El Dorado Street on the east by Locust Avenue, and on the south by Swan Drive.

The Marie Avenue treatment area is generally bounded by Sheridan Avenue on the west, North Street on the north, Mylnar Avenue on the east, and Bristow Street in the Curran Grove neighborhood on the south.

San Joaquin County Agricultural Commission Scott Hudson indicated Manteca is the first area with confirmed reproducing light brown apple moths that is targeted for eradication efforts. He expects areas in the city of Tracy to be next.

Workers will replace the twist ties every 90 days and remove the old ones. It takes two life cycles of the moth for the effort to be successful. If all goes well, all those would be removed by July 2010.

If the effort to stop the spread of the moth isn’t successful, it has the potential of destroying 85 percent of vegetable, nursery, and fruit crops as well as destroys ornamentals used in landscaping.

 The time schedule for the eradication is as follows:

•Homes in the impacted neighborhood will receive flyers by Dec. 3 with basic information as well as details on an upcoming neighborhood informational meeting.

•The informational meetings will take place Dec. 10.

•Two days before the ties are put in place sometime between Dec. 14-18 a second flyer will be distributed.

Hudson emphasized the ties will be put high in tree branches are placed in the middle of small bushes. They are of no danger to humans or pets. The ties have been used in Sherman Oaks, Dublin, Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island in San Francisco and the City of Napa with no problems. He noted the ties using insect pheromone to disrupt the mating process are an old technology that has been proven highly effective and safe.

On the day that the ties are being put in place, residents will be asked to have gates unlocked and to secure pets.

The workers besides being dressed in khaki uniforms will wear goggles for the purpose of preventing tree limbs, branches and leaves from getting in their eyes while putting the ties in place.