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Mate or Die

If the light brown apple moth (LBAM) were on Homeland Security alert, its flashing colors would be green/blue for low, though guarded for Sonoma and Napa counties; and yellow, or elevated, for southern Marin. While Marin County faces the threat of aerial spraying aimed at eradicating the pest later this summer, such is not the case with the neighboring North Bay counties.

Stephan Parnay is a division manager for the Sonoma County Agricultural Commission. Parnay says there hasn't been an LBAM find in Sonoma County since April 21, and that this find was just the second of the entire year. Only a few LBAMs have been discovered in Napa County over the same time frame.

But this doesn't mean the LBAM isn't affecting wine country. "The light brown apple moth has a huge host-list. It can affect over 2,000 plants, as well as about 250 agricultural crops," Parnay says. "One of our main concerns is that it's having an economic impact on our growers here. So we are having to help growers meet specific requirements so that they can continue to move their products outside the quarantine area and also out of the state."

Absolutely no spraying is presently anticipated for Sonoma or Napa counties. "That's not even being considered," Parnay says. In lieu of spraying, the Ag Commission has distributed little twisties impregnated with a pheromone, which is then tied to metal hangers in trees and shrubs surrounding those areas where the most recent finds have occurred. The pheromones act to disrupt the moth's mating habits. Since it can't mate, it dies. The twisty ties are approved for organic use, so they pose no threat to organic or biodynamic farmers.

Parnay's advice in keeping the LBAM away is to ask locals, particularly gardeners, to keep a vigilant eye out for the varmints. "When they're out in their yards and they see something they don't remember ever seeing, they can give our office a call," he says. "They can also call the University of California Extension Master Gardener Program, and either our office or theirs can look at those insects and can determine if it is something that is nonnative, an exotic that we need to do something about."

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