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LBAM report out: pheromones over Alameda

When I first heard of the light brown apple moth, I promised myself I’d never use the LBAM acronym—because who calls a little brown moth “LBAM?” It’s goofy. But there it is, up there in the headline, in all its space-saving goofiness.

The state has released its report on whether the spraying of Checkmate (synthetic moth pheromones in plastic ‘microcapsules’ for time release) in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties last fall caused illnesses. Chris Metinko’s story about the findings is here. It is no surprise that the state found there was not enough evidence to conclusively Continue Reading

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News Links: Light brown apple moth

The rancor in the state continues over government plans to spray CheckMate, a synthetic moth hormone delivered in plastic ‘microcapsules’ over Bay Area counties come August.

Genevieve Bookwalter reports on the United States Department of Agriculture’s response to the study issued last month by UC Santa Cruz Arboretum Director Daniel Harder. Harder says the light brown apple moth is Continue Reading

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California Secretary of Agriculture Kawamura visits Alameda to defend moth spray program

At last night’s city council meeting—after a brief presentation on California’s strategy to control the Light Brown Apple Moth—a couple of dozen Alameda citizens stepped up to challenge the plan to spray an as-yet-unformulated concoction on Bay Area cities and towns.

While the politics of the situation are intriguing—the ‘emergency’ which allows government agencies to sidestep normal health and safety requirements, the fact that the manufacturer of the synthetic pheromones is a Schwarzenegger campaign donor, and, too, that the state recently had to cancel a $500,000, no-bid PR contract to promote the spray—the basic facts remain the same: Continue Reading

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Presentation on Light Brown Apple Moth at tomorrow’s Alameda City Council meeting

At tomorrow night’s city council meeting, representatives from California’s Department of Food and Agriculture will present their plans to control the spread of the Light Brown Apple Moth—a plan which includes the aerial spraying of synthetic pheromones three to five nights a month for five years. I wrote about the moth a couple weeks ago, and you can read that post here.

The moth item is high on the agenda, so it should be addressed pretty early. And you can always watch on cable from the comfort of your own home.

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Spray Alameda? Spray the light brown apple moth?

As you may have already heard, the state of California plans to spray up and down the coast three to five nights a month for five years to eradicate the light brown apple moth, a newcomer from Australia. Hundreds of people in the Santa Cruz area, where spraying began last fall, reported respiratory problems. Legislation has been introduced to stop the plan and some towns like Albany (here’s a recent Contra Costa Times editorial by Albany Mayor Robert Lieber) are resisting. Our Alameda is in the area slated to be sprayed.

Not knowing much about moths, I called Dr. Jerry Powell the Berkeley entomologist who found the first light brown apple moth in his backyard blacklight trap in July of 2006. While Powell graciously declined to weigh in on the value of spraying–”insect control is not my field,” he said—he did point out that science does not indicate with any certainty that the apple moth (which he describes as “small, drab and maybe about a centimeter long”) will necessarily become a huge problem: “I think the crux of the matter is that the USDA classifies it as a potential pest and there’s a budget to keep it from spreading.”

What I found most interesting about my conversation with Powell—aside from the fact that it’s not every day I get to chat with people who’ve made a career studying insects (there’s a heck of a lot more of you tech people out there)—was that he made it quite clear there’s no way to predict how and where the apple moth might establish itself:

There is precedent for new moths coming in and not spreading elsewhere along the coast. There’s also a couple of examples of ones that have come in and spread. And there’s one that was in Southern California on the coast for 50 years and then suddenly began to spread inland. You certainly can’t predict what’s going to happen based on other species. It’s sort of anyone’s guess what would happen if you did not spray.

To be clear, the plan does not call for spraying pesticide, but rather synthetic moth pheromones designed to confuse the male moths and interrupt their breeding patterns. Powell:

It’s a kind of like a dust. They call it spray, but it’s a dust made of tiny plastic flakes on which the synthetic pheromone is affixed. And the way that kind of treatment works—or they hope it works—is that it causes so much confusion on the part of the males that they can ‘t find females. The hope is that it leaves a lot or most of the females unmated.

Call me crazy conservative, but I’d like to know, one, that these moths really, really are going to be a big problem if left unsprayed and, two, that the little plastic flecks with pheromones (as well as the other ‘inert’ ingredients included in the product) really, really don’t harm people.

For more information—-you must be curious now? The Pesticide Action Network has a pretty extensive description of the issue, including a timeline of moth-control related events and some background on aerial spraying and pheromones.

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I do not like to clean up dog poop

testing againToday I wonder this: Does the law that says dogs are not allowed on school property include the grass around the school buildings–or does it just mean the black top areas/areas inside the schools’ fences? This, I wonder.

As an alert citizen, I have noted that people tend to walk their dogs around schools here on our island. My best guess is they do this as a courtesy, so that their dogs do not relieve themselves on private property. But what about the children-at-play? Because even when dog owners pick up their pets’ waste, it often leaves a shmeer-type-thing. Which is fine, but actually not fine, and maybe a little icky.

A friendly gentleman named Alex at the East Bay SPCA Continue Reading