SACRAMENTO COUNTY (CBS13) – A viewer post on social media wondering why there was an insect trap in her lemon tree with a “do not disturb” sign revealed a bigger answer to her question.
The insect trap is part of the “detection program” by the Department of Agriculture to identify and quarantine invasive insect species that could harm the state’s crops.
“Our orchard is pretty new, these are one-year-old trees,” Charlotte Mitchell said.
Charlotte Mitchell’s family has been in the farming business for more than a century and growing walnuts is their latest venture.
Mitchell credits the Department of Agriculture’s detection program for a healthy crop season.
The statewide program targets residential areas around Sacramento County where officials say the threat of invasive crop-killing species is high.
“We place them on fruit trees, we essentially follow the fruit,” Adrian Ramos said.
Ramos is the Senior Program Aid for the Department of Agriculture. He says, over the years, more people have been traveling abroad and bringing back invasive insects like the Japanese beetle and the destructive Mediterranean fruit fly.
“Last year we found Japanese beetles, gypsy moth and Oriental fruit fly,” Ramos said.
Ramos says the department hangs five traps within each square mile, and each trap contains a food lure or a pheromone to identify harmful insects.
“We relocate the traps every six weeks to 20,000 locations between April and November,” Ramos added.
Ramos says the department hasn’t found any threatening species so far in 2016 – but if they do, there is a process to get rid of them.
“The first step is limitation, we start placing hundreds of traps per square mile in an 81-mile radius; if that doesn’t work, we release millions of sterile flies so the bad flies can’t reproduce,” Ramos said.
It takes a large-scale effort to control such a minuscule pest to keep the region’s crops in ripe condition.
Charlotte Mitchell says if it weren’t for the detection program, “our situation would be far different and we would not be able to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables.”
The last time the Sacramento region dealt with an invasive species was almost four years ago, when the Department of Agriculture discovered a moth that was destroying vineyard grapes in Lodi and Napa Valley.