An agricultural specialist told the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors last month that the Light Brown Apple Moth has recently appeared in California and may damage crops if it is not eradicated.
Edward Meyer, county agricultural commissioner, gave a presentation about the moth at the supervisors' meeting in Martinez on May 1.
"The issue is extremely important to Contra Costa County," said District 3 Supervisor Mary N. Piepho. "We are monitoring (the moths) as closely as we can. And we will be keeping the public informed."
She noted the moth had been found in April at the Sycamore Valley Road exit to I-680 in Danville, and another one may have been caught in town. She added that there have been trappings in Oakley and in Santa Cruz County.
Moths have also been detected in portions of Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties. Agriculturalists have been only trapping the moths, not spraying them.
"It's to determine the quantity," Piepho said.
The Light Brown Apple Moth came from Australia and has spread to New Zealand, New Caledonia, Hawaii and the British Isles. From Hawaii, it has traveled to California, Piepho said. It was recently discovered in portions of the Bay Area.
California's diverse range of agriculture and natural plant life makes the state highly susceptible to exotic pest invaders such as the Light Brown Apple Moth. The insect feeds on and damages plants and trees of a wide variety.
More than 250 plants are at risk of being attacked by this moth, including pear, citrus, peach, avocado, oak, willow, walnut, pine, eucalyptus, roses, jasmine, strawberry, table and wine grapes, berries and other ornamental shrubs, bushes and trees.
The moth can potentially ruin vegetable and flower gardens. Additionally, it attacks native and ornamental, fruit and vegetable plants, according to the county's agricultural Web site. It also has the potential to severely damage residential landscapes, orchards and agricultural crops, including grapes.
If this exotic pest is not eradicated in a timely manner, the annual economic loss would exceed $70 million in lost jobs and infrastructure, according to the Web site. California is the U.S. leader in agricultural exports, states the site. In 2003, it shipped more than $7.2 billion in both food and agricultural products around the world.
"It's important to Contra Costa County because we have a high volume of produce that leaves our county," Piepho said. "It is in a number of Bay Area counties."
To report suspect pests, call the California Department of Food and Agriculture at (800) 491-1899.