Good Question

Nov 7, 2008

Most entomologists I know maintain a keen sense of humor.


They have to, or the insects (or the people concerned about them) will drive them buggy!


At the Northern California Entomology Society meeting in Concord last Thursday, entomologist William Roltsch of the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Biocontrol Branch delivered a presentation on “Biocontrol of the Light Brown Apple Moth.”


He talked about the release of several parasitoids, including Trichogramma sp., an egg parasitoid; Meteorus trachynotus, a larval parasitoid; and Enytus eureka, a larval parasitoid.


These are the critters that can kill the light brown apple moth. The pest,  known as LBAM or the "eat-everything moth," loves the Califonria climate.


Roltsch talked about biocontrol test sites in the Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, and in  Santa Cruz. He talked about alternatives to aerial spraying.


Roltsch, a CDFA senior environmental research scientist who received his doctorate in entomology from Michigan State University, has studied  the biocontrol of many insects, including the pink hibiscus mealybug, the red gum lerp psyllid and the silverleaf whitefly.


And now LBAM.


LBAM lays about 60 eggs at a time, sometimes up to 100. It’s a native of Australia, or more specifically, “the southeastern quarter of Australia,” he said.


Its hosts include crops (grape vines, pome, stone fruit and citrus), shrubs (coral pea, tea tree, broom and Asteracae, the sunflower family) and weeds (capeweed, plantain and dock).


Roltsch talked about how much LBAM loves the Australian tea tree (Leptospermum laevigatium); manzanita, bottle brush, and other plants.


But wait, he didn't say anything about my favorite plant, the New Zealand tea tree, Leptospermum scoparium keatleyi. A sea captain named  Edward John "Ted" Keatley (probably one of my relatives) discovered the cultivar in the early 1900s in New Zealand.


I'm sure LBAM loves that plant, too, just as it loves everything else. It's not a picky eater.


During the question and answer period, a Contra Costa County resident asked Roltsch:  “How did LBAM know to settle in three counties that do not allow aerial spraying: Alameda, San Francisco and Santa Cruz?”


That question drew one of the biggest laughs of the day.


Ol' LBAM is a clever cuss. It not only eats everything but it's trained in survival skills.


I do know this: Capt. Keatley had nothing to do with transporting LBAM here.