No joke, unfortunately. The light brown apple moth (LBAM) from New Zealand could disrupt California agriculture very badly, and has recently been detected in the SF Bay Area. Not just big agriculture, our backyard gardens too, whether flowers, veggies, fruit, or a mix of all three. This little moth’s caterpillars love a lot of plants here, and have no native predators to keep them in check. The official How You Can Help against Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) brochure (PDF) says:
This includes but is not limited to: oak, willow, walnut, pine, redwood, eucalyptus, apple, pear, citrus, peach, avocado, roses, jasmine, strawberry, table and wine grapes, berries and other ornamental shrubs, bushes and trees.
The brochure includes detailed pictures of the male and female moths, the caterpillars, and coccoons, as well as the sample traps being placed in California counties to detect the spread of the moth.
If you see rolled up leaves on your plants, pluck the leaf and stomp it to a smeary green spot, or put in a ziploc bag and dispose in the trash. Notify your county agriculture commission with your address, date, and the type of plant. Contact info for Santa Clara County. Not in Santa Clara? Choose from list of California counties.
A quarantine zone has been established. If you live within a quarantined section of the county, please don’t share plants with people outside the zone. If you live outside the quarantined section, please don’t buy plants or accept them from individuals or stores inside the zone. The moth got in via plants, fruit, and cut flowers from NZ, parts of the UK, and Hawaii. Be cautious about importing plants or flowers from sites mentioned on the quarantine pages. Light Brown Apple Moth Quarantine Maps (PDF) for SF Bay Area, by county.
Now if only somebody could quarantine MY garden against “the Eaters that come in the night”. Generally snails, slugs, or earwigs, many a promising 3 – 4 leaved seedling has vanished, leaving only a green stem. Time to replant teddy bear sunflowers, this time in larger, transplantable pots rather than a 6-pack where I have to set out tiny seedlings. Bah. And they got several of my eggplants, too! Just when I thought it was warm enough to start taking the recycled-plastic-bottle cloche caps off of them! Actually, several years of hand-picking snails in the garden is paying off, as their numbers have been drastically reduced. But it only takes ONE hungry slug or earwig to clear out a single-seedling buffet. :-(
A tip for folks making cloches– I was using 2-liter soda bottles, because they are clear plastic. I have switched to translucent milk jugs, after discovering the hard way that seedlings protected at night will fry during the day and wither outright. Doh. So unless you make a habit of going out and taking off all those little caps early in the morning, use translucent, rather than clear, plastic.