Ain't No Moths on Me
LBAM is back in the news.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture announced Aug. 29 that it has established a 19-square-mile quarantine straddling portions of two counties after the light brown apple moth (LBAM) was found July 23 in Napa County and Aug. 10 in Sonoma County.
That's bad news all around.
As a leafrolling caterpillar, the light brown apple moth loves grapes. And just about everything else from A to Z: apple, apricot, beans, caneberries (blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry, raspberry), cabbage, camellia, chrysanthemum, citrus, clover, cole crops, eucalyptus, jasmine, kiwifruit, peach, pear, persimmon, plantain, pumpkin, strawberry, tomato, rose and zea mays (corn).
It's a herbivorous generalist.
When I attended the Northern California Entomology Society meeting in May of last year, Alameda County acting ag commissioner Gregory Gee commented about its polyphagous nature: "It even likes pine trees."
Pine trees! Even!
Fact is, Gee said, the pest (Epiphyas postvittana) likes other landscape trees, too, including oak, willow, walnut, poplar, cottonwood and alder.
A native of Australia, LBAM has been found in a dozen counties since retired UC Berkeley entomologist Jerry Powell, a moth taxonomist, first detected the pest in his Berkeley backyard on July 19, 2006.
Controversy swirls over how long the pest has actually been in California and how to battle it. UC Davis entomologist James R. Carey says it's probably been here for years--maybe even decades. Carey doubts that the foreign invader can be eradicated.
But there's no controversy about its appetite.
UC Davis entomologist Frank Zalom, an integrated pest management specialist who researches tree crops, small fruits, vegetables and invasive species, said LBAM's appetite spans 250 hosts--and the spectrum of known hosts continues to grow.
Meanwhile, the moth even has its own song, a no-spray message played by KGO Radio as bumper music. The tune, "Ain't No Moths on Me," written and performed by the Bay Area group, Charity and the JAMband, is as catchy as the Muhammad Ali quote, "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."
LBAM has no stinger but it definitely stings.
A USDA study indicates that, if California becomes generally infested, the moth could cause billions of dollars in crop damage annually. Additionally, it would hinder export opportunities and interstate commerce due to quarantine restrictions, as demonstrated by the quarantines already enacted by Canada and Mexico. California agricultural exports to the two countries totaled more than $2.4 billion in 2006. Source: CDFA press release.
Light brown apple moth, female
Light brown apple moth, male
Larva of the light brown apple moth