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Published May 04, 2010, 03:20 PM

Invasive vineyard moth found in fifth California county

SAN FRANCISCO — A vineyard-devouring moth has been found in Fresno County, marking an expanded threat by the invasive pest to California wine country.

By: Marcus Wohlsen, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A vineyard-devouring moth has been found in Fresno County, marking an expanded threat by the invasive pest to California wine country.

The discovery announced Monday came despite a widening quarantine meant to halt the spread of the invasive pest.

Fresno County agricultural officials said federal researchers captured three European grapevine moths in Fresno County vineyards in recent days.

The discovery brought to five the number of California counties where the moth has been found.

“It certainly does increase our concern,” said Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League. “We’re still in the process of determining what the find means in terms of impact for growers.”

The pest was first discovered in the state last September after a swarm consumed an en-tire 9-acre vineyard of prized Napa County grapes. The moth has since appeared in Sonoma, Mendocino and Solano counties.

A federal grape quarantine was expanded last month to restrict the travel of grapes across a 219-square-mile swath of prime Northern California wine country.

Regulators planned to expand the quarantine to Fresno County in hopes of keeping the moth in check. They also were weighing the use of various treatments to destroy moth eggs and larva and disrupt the insect’s mating cycle.

Grapes are the top crop in Fresno County, valued at more than $723 million a year.

Bedwell said he is hopeful the detection of the moths before most grapes are in season will make it easier to contain the pest before it causes too much damage. If the proper steps are taken, he said, “we will not see a major impact, both for growers and consumers.”

The moths destroy crops by feeding directly on the grapes and making the fruit more susceptible to damaging mold.

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