The Apple Moth Emergency is a Hoax

The Light Brown Apple Moth is a moth native to Australia. Since it is in the U.S. it is considered an invasive species. Scroll down and you will see some reports done by entomologists - moth experts, about the apple moth.

LBAM Key Points Summary

  1. There is no reported crop damage in the United States as a direct result of the apple moth.
  2. The moth has lived in Hawaii for over 100 years, without causing a significant problem.
  3. The moth in its native home, causes hardly any damage to crops and is not even a nuisance to farmers, it is also easily kept from causing harm using sticky traps and pheromone twist ties.
  4. Entomologists agree, except those who are paid for by the state government, that eradication of the moth is both impossible and unnecessary.
  5. The technology used in the Checkmate aerial pheromone spray is both untested, it will not work because the pheromone's need to be applied to tree's in a certain way to affect the moth's mating habits.

The Light Brown Apple Moth,
Is This Really Cause for an Emergency?

Below is the LBAM larva crawling on a Grape.
Does that look like it is causing serious crop damage?

Entomologists Report on Moth

Professional Entomologist Report Given on the Condition of Anonymity

"The use of aerially applied Checkmate OLR-F or LBAM-F has never been tested for efficacy against LBAM. There has never been a successful eradication of a pest using any pheromone unilaterally. The state has no scientific basis to claim that this spray formulation will work. The only published science and, indeed, the only use of pheromone against LBAM has been with Isomate, the twist tie formulation. This work was done in Australia by Suckling and Clearwater. When contacting people who have worked with LBAM in the infested parts of the world, no one describes it as a severe pest. In fact, it is another in a long list of leaf roller (Tortricid) species that are usually easily controlled in agricultural crops. There are no examples of "ecological destruction" by LBAM as reported by folks who have worked on the pest. In short, the eradication program's use of aerially applied Checkmate pheromones is an experiment."

Professional Entomologist known as the Bugman, Richard Fagerlund

comments on the LBAM aerial spraying

I think this should be stopped. As you said, the inert ingredients don't have to be disclosed, much less tested and many inert ingredients used in pesticides are carcinogenic or have other side effects. The governor is wrong to allow this spraying to happen. The fact that there have been some problems in Monterey County should dictate he halt it.

On Sept. 28, the Santa Cruz Sentinel published the ingredients in this CheckMate LBAM-F spray. Apparently, the ingredients were inadvertently released to them by the Environmental Protection Agency and have been guarded as trade secrets by Suterra, the manufacturer.

Suterra threatened the newspaper, and the ingredients list was removed from the newspaper's Web site. One inert is tricaprylyl methyl ammonium chloride, which is on the EPA's list of inerts of unknown toxicity. According to the Pesticide Action Network North America in San Francisco, the compound is considered "moderately toxic" to insects,
"highly toxic" to fish and "very highly toxic" to zooplankton. The safety statement for this inert is: "In case of contact with eyes, rinse immediately with plenty of water and seek medical advice," "wear eye/face protection," "this material and/or its container must be disposed of as hazardous waste" and, very importantly, "avoid release in the environment."

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

From an E-mail Message:

Steve Lyle from the Cal. Dept. of Food and Agriculture called me today to complain about my column on spraying. He also wrote my editor at the SF Chronicle. He also made some statements that were totally out of touch with reality. I will address this in my column, hopefully next week. One thing he said as you can see below is that the main inert ingredient in the spray is urea. Go to u4725.htm scroll down to Potential Health Effects and decide if this is something you want carpet bombed over your communities.

SF Chronicle Column 11/17/07:

Last week I wrote a column about the spraying of noxious material in several areas of California to kill the light brown apple moth.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive except for one phone call and e-mail I got from Steve Lyle, director of public affairs for the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

The department is using a product called Checkmate LBAM. The inert ingredients in the formulation are used to delay the release of the active ingredients so that the treatment will be effective for a month. This product is a pheromone, designed to disrupt the mating and breeding habits of the moth. While the active ingredient does this, the inert ingredients are not as benign.

Part of his e-mail to my editor and me is below:

"Dear Ms. Evans,

"Over the weekend your syndicated Ask the Bugman column featured a series of incorrect statements about the Light Brown Apple Moth eradication project.

"In an attempt to tell our side of the story, I telephoned Mr. Fagerlund this morning in New Mexico, where, to my knowledge, he has had no first-hand experience or communication on this issue.

"After some initial reluctance to consider our side of the story, Mr. Fagerlund agreed to read material sent by me, with no promise of a fair discussion on his column.

"I am writing you because we believe corrections to his erroneous column are strongly justified and hope you can facilitate."

Steve Lyle

Director of Public Affairs

California Department of Food and Agriculture

When I asked Lyle on the phone about the inert ingredients, he told me that the predominant ingredient is urea. He reiterated: "The basic biodegradable building block is urea, a normal constituent of the human body that is derived from the breakdown of proteins that we eat."

Although urea may be manufactured by the human body, the amount used in the spray is not safe. The Material Safety Data Sheet for urea ( lists the following potential health effects.

"Inhalation: Causes irritation to the respiratory tract. Symptoms may include coughing, shortness of breath. May be absorbed into the bloodstream with symptoms similar to ingestion.

"Ingestion: Causes irritation to the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. May also cause headache, confusion and electrolyte depletion.

"Skin Contact: Causes irritation to skin. Symptoms include redness, itching, and pain.

"Eye Contact: Causes irritation, redness, and pain.

"Chronic Exposure: A study of 67 workers in an environment with high airborne concentrations of urea found a high incidence of protein metabolism disturbances, moderate emphysema, and chronic weight loss.

"Aggravation of Pre-existing Conditions: Supersensitive individuals with skin or eye problems, kidney impairment or asthmatic condition should have physician's approval before exposure to urea dust."

Is this the kind of material Californians want the state to be carpet-bombing their neighborhoods with? Lyle was pretty clear that urea was the predominant inert ingredient in the product the state is using.

Also, I asked him about the people who are getting sick after the initial spraying of this noxious material. He said he tells people to go to a doctor if they get sick. That's it? Go to a doctor?

Lyle also told me that the material the state is using is the same as the pheromone traps I recommend for clothes moths. But one pheromone trap in a closet to control a few clothes moths is a little different than dumping planeloads of the material in occupied neighborhoods.

I think it is obvious that the material being dumped qualifies as a noxious chemical, according to the urea MSDS.

I am not sure any moth is worth the misery this program is causing. Maybe someone should send Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger the MSDS for urea.

Source: SF Chronicle

UC Santa Cruz Botanist and Concernced Citizen Dan Harder

From Goodtimes Article: There’s the basic question of whether or not pheromones will even work. Dan Harder, a botanist employed by UCSC and member of the LBAM Task Force, who has previously been profiled in the pages of GT addresses this point from a different angle in his deposition before the court.

“The information I have reviewed thus far indicated that mating-disrupting pheromones have never been shown to completely eliminate any insect pests anywhere in
the world, moth or otherwise.”

“The information I have gathered and my professional training and experience indicated that the LBAM will not be breeding in the winter months beginning in November, as the rains begin and the temperature drops, Instead, throughout November and most of the winter months, the moths will remain as caterpillars and not become adults.”

Harder then goes on to poke more holes in the CDFA’s plan, including the fact that no peer-reviewed literature of this kind of aerial application is available and that the buffer zones established by the CDFA over riparian areas and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary will allow LBAM populations to continue to survive .

Source: Santa Cruz Goodtimes Article

Dan Harder Full Report Update

I have uncovered a few facts that have caused me to modify my declaration somewhat but not changed my position. Pheromones have not ever been applied aerially in Australia or New Zealand. In my declaration (page 3, paragraph 9, line 19) I implied that this technology had been used there in the past. The Checkmate formulation has never been aerially applied anywhere except in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

Also the leaf roller family is misspelled. It should
be "Tortricidae" and tortricids.

James Carey, a professor of entomology at the University of California-Davis

"This thing is so widespread that there is no way that they're going to eradicate it,"

"The CDFA and USDA really need to do a major stock-taking," Carey said. "You have to come to grips with reality."

"I'm happy to be convinced that it can be eradicated," "But using the tool that they have of mating disruption, there are major questions. I don't know that a pheromone has ever been used to eradicate a pest."

"The double bind is that ... to acknowledge that they're established is to unleash economic consequences that are even more devastating than the spread would cause,"

"To acknowledge the truth is to trigger these embargoes and quarantines that are absolutely devastating, so they're always playing this game that it's 'eradicable,

"It's sort of like you pick your battles in this life. The USDA needs somebody to say this is just too far gone," he said. "We have to really rethink this."

From Monterey Herald Article: Carey said the moth has spread to too many counties for aerial spraying to work and, like cancer cells in the body, can continue to grow undetected.

Carey said officials need to think harder before declaring a multi-million-dollar war on the apple moth via pheromones that is likely to be futile in the end. The state has never permanently eradicated many pests, he said, but farmers have learned to manage them.

Source: Monterey Herald

Moth Taxonimst, Jerry Powell

Jerry had the apple moth's first bay area citing.

"Because it's a general feeder -- it's polyphagous -- it doesn't seem to me there's much point in quarantining things, especially after they've found it all around,"

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

polyphagous - eats a wide variety of foods.

New Zealand, he noted, eventually gave up on eradicating the pest.

"If you've got light brown apple moth in a particular commodity in a particular region, folks in other parts of the world say, 'Oh, we're no longer going to receive that commodity from you!' So all of a sudden, you have lost a major trading partner that might be billions of dollars a year," said John Brown, an entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle