Wine-makers in California are panicking over the
arrival of a tiny moth that threatens to eat its way through their
The light brown apple moth, a native of Australia,
had never been found in the US before February this year when a
retired entomologist near San Francisco caught one in a trap.
Since then, the insect has been found in nine
counties throughout the state, including the Napa Valley, the famous
Farmers are worried too. The creature has a
voracious appetite, chomping its way through everything from apple,
almond, avocado and apricot trees to strawberry, tomato, pumpkin and
About 250 varieties of plants are thought to be at
risk, along with the state's $5.4 billion (£2.7 billion) apple,
pear, orange and grape industry.
The state's department of food and agriculture says
on its website that the moth has the potential to devastate
California's natural ecosystems. The use of pesticides to combat the
"exotic pest invader" would result in "environmental damage".
The state is America's leading agricultural
exporter, shipping more than $7.2 billion (£3.6 billion) in food and
agricultural commodities around the world.
"It is a significant pest of wine grapes," Greg
Clark, the assistant Napa county agricultural commissioner, told the
New York Times. "If we have an infestation here, it's likely it
could move into other agricultural regions."
Organic pesticides are already being sprayed in
Oakley, in the Bay Area, and Napa. Further south, in Santa Cruz
County, nearly 3,500 moths have been discovered with farmers setting
thousands of traps to protect the area's profitable shrub, tree and
flower business. Crops from affected counties are being