Lethal scent to aid light brown apple moth fight in Los Osos

State agricultural officials have announced a campaign to eradicate the light brown apple moth, an invasive pest that has been found in Los Osos.

In the summer, five of the destructive moths were found, causing crops and nurseries in Los Osos to be temporarily quarantined.

State and county farm officials will attempt to eradicate the insect by deploying twist ties containing the moth’s mating pheromone. The twist ties will be hung on outdoor plants in areas of Los Osos where the moths have been found.

The twist-tie strips will overwhelm male moths with scent from female moths, preventing them from finding mates. Eventually, officials say, the moths will die out.

The twist ties will be deployed in a circular pattern around the 108 acres where the five moths were found, said Rich Little, deputy agricultural commissioner. Normally, about 27,000 twist ties would have to be deployed to cover an area like that, but the number actually used will be much less because many of the pattern areas overlap.

“At this point in time, I expect that mid-November will be the planned deployment time,” Little said.

State agricultural officials have done a health assessment of the twist ties and found that they pose a low public health risk. Some sensitive individuals could have an allergic reaction.

A public meeting to answer questions about the eradication program will be held from 6 to 9 p.m., Tuesday at the South Bay Community Center, 2180 Palisades Ave. Additionally, residents in the eradication area will be contacted by agricultural officials.

The light brown apple moth is from Australia and feeds on hundreds of different types of plants during its caterpillar stage. It can stunt and deform young seedlings, disfigure ornamental plants and damage native species including oaks and redwoods.

The moths can also destroy citrus, grapes and deciduous fruit. Earlier this year, the moth damaged berry crops in Watsonville and grapes in Monterey County.