USDA quarantines 250 plant species in Bay Area
State agricultural authorities have imposed a Bay Area quarantine on the transport of hundreds of species of plants in an effort to stop the spread of a voracious Australian moth that could threaten the state's main agricultural region.
More than 250 species of plants the moth eats — everything from grapes to eucalyptus trees — are included in the quarantine, which restricts the movement of the plants within a 182-square-mile region in portions of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Marin and Santa Clara counties. The pest lays eggs on the leaves of the plants it eats, which can then be spread by moving the plants.
In what officials believe was the first appearance in the United States of the pest, a light brown apple moth was spotted in the Bay Area on Feb. 27. Since then, more than 170 of the invasive pests have been caught in the five-county area.
“It’s a very generous host list because the moth eats anything that’s green,” California Department of Food and Agriculture spokesman Jay Van Rein told the Associated Press on Friday. “We’ve trapped less than 200 of these things, so it’s not apparent yet how heavy the infestation is.”
In addition to the movement ban, the host plants and their clippings cannot be shipped until state inspectors clear them.
The quarantine took effect Saturday, and covers residential groups, community groups, commercial nurseries and gardens.
An international team assembled by the USDA is analyzing the potential threat to California agriculture.