(Sept. 18, PACKER WEB EXCLUSIVE) State agriculture officials have been on the lookout for a potentially devastating pest in California’s Ventura County after a false codling moth was found July 24 near the Port of Hueneme.

“We’ve been trapping extensively in that area ever since,” said Jay Van Rein, a spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “So far, so good.”

He said reports by the mainstream media that the state had declared an emergency situation were inaccurate, but a second finding would trigger a quarantine.

Though nearly eight weeks had passed since the initial find, Van Rein said Sept. 17 that a second find still is possible.

“It gives you reason to be optimistic,” he said, “but pests can survive at fairly low levels. Moth larvae spend time inside a host plant before the adult emerges.”

Van Rein said the state had a good, pheromone-based trap to attract the pest.

The false codling moth can feed on a wide range of host plants, including citrus plants. Van Rein said Ventura County has a $1.5 billion agriculture industry, with the top crops including strawberries, lemons and celery.

Meanwhile, California has been dealing with the light brown apple moth since February 2007. A second finding in April led to a federal quarantine and eradication efforts in 11 counties.

Elsewhere, southern San Diego County was quarantined the week of Sept. 8 because of an infestation of the Asian citrus psyllid, the pest that can spread the bacterial citrus greening disease.

Van Rein said ground treatments of citrus and related plants started Sept. 17 at 12 San Diego County sites in an effort to stop the pest from spreading to other areas. The state has a $1.1 billion citrus industry and produces 80% of the nation’s fresh oranges and 87% of its fresh lemons.

Van Rein pointed out that though Asian citrus psyllids have been detected in the state, citrus greening has not.

“You have to have both to do damage,” he said. “But it’s something that has the attention of citrus growers in the entire state.”

Finally, California started an eradication program for Oriental fruit fly Sept. 17 for a 12-square-mile area in San Bernadino County. A similar effort began a week earlier in the Loma Linda area.

Van Rein said the pest is introduced several times a year from sources around the world.

“We have a fully effective treatment program,” he said. “We have a lot of confidence in the eradication program.”