SANTA CRUZ -- Stingerless wasps and trees squirted with thick, wet insecticide are two more weapons the state soon could unveil in Santa Cruz County to fight the invasive light brown apple moth.
Already, state officials have mapped out 34 square miles in Santa Cruz, Capitola and parts of the Pajaro Valley where they plan to release 34 million stingerless wasps this spring.
Meanwhile, an "action plan" released in February revealed plans to use a caulking gun-like apparatus to squirt onto trees and power poles a gooey pesticide "slurry" that would attract and kill the moth, said Steve Lyle, spokesman for the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
The two techniques would join the airplanes spraying pheromones over the county in an ongoing assault on the invasive Australian pest, which established itself in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties last year.
While controversial, all of the options are "something we look at as alternatives to wide-scale pesticide spraying," Lyle said.
Like the movie "Alien," the native California wasps would inject their eggs into those of moths or butterflies. The growing wasps would eat the host eggs -- thus killing them -- and emerge as full-grown insects, said Arthur Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis.
A date for wasp dispersal has not been set.
A potential problem with the wasp -- which is the size of a fleck of dust -- is that it does not distinguish between light brown apple moth, native moth and butterfly eggs, Shapiro said.
As a result, the state should be careful when they release the wasps, so as not to threaten eggs of endangered insects, Shapiro said.
"It's all a matter of timing, when they're going to do the release and where," Shapiro said.
Lyle said the department has no plans to release moths near the endangered monarch butterfly habitat along the Central Coast.
The slurry, on the other hand, would be a mixture of pheromone -- a chemical scent that distracts male moths from mating -- and the insecticide Permethrin, which is commonly used to kill fleas on dogs and cats, Lyle said.
The goo would be squirted by a person in a van onto power poles and trees 8 feet high -- on public and private property -- along streets around Santa Cruz County, Lyle said. It should dry within a week and be rain- and fog-proof. Workers would reapply the goo every 60 to 90 days.
Neither a schedule nor a map for the proposed slurry treatment has been released.
To Supervisor Neal Coonerty, a vocal critic of the state's decision to eradicate the moth, the additional strategies are just more reason to be concerned.
"Our butterfly population requires a great deal of care and consideration before doing anything that might disrupt it," Coonerty said. Releasing the wasps is just "one in a long string of unnecessary and badly defined ideas."
County residents went into an uproar last year after the state announced it would drop a synthetic pheromone, CheckMate LBAM-F, over urban areas to fight the light brown apple moth, an invasive pest from Australia. If left unchecked, state officials said the moth could wreak havoc on California agriculture. To stop it in time, they said, an environmental review of the decision to spray would not be possible. Planes took to the sky in November.
City and county leaders vehemently disagreed and sued the state. The case should be heard April 24 in Santa Cruz Superior Court.
The moth was first found in Santa Cruz last April, when one moth was caught in one of two traps. On March 21, 11,507 moths were caught in 3,534 traps around the county.