Thousands of moths appeared suddenly and uncharacteristically in Apple Valley, Calif., on Oct. 8, 2010. Farmers and ornamental plant growers have been on alert for the light brown apple moth pest (Epiphyas postvittana) that came to California from Australia in March of 2007, according to a peer-reviewed report by the University of California. In 2008, federal agencies quarantined nine San Francisco Bay area counties to prevent the apple moth pest from spreading to other areas of California and the United States. Apple Valley is 300 miles from the nearest quarantined county.
The moths might have migrated here due to a trickle of water that is in the Mojave River right now. The Mojave River has been mostly dry since the Cedar Springs Dam created Silverwood Lake in 1971, according to the California State Parks.
On Friday, Oct. 8, my husband and I were having a garage sale, so we were outside all day. As we were setting up in the wee hours of the morning, we noticed an inordinate number of moths were drawn to our lantern. This continued on Saturday. On Sunday, when we drove to the market, moths kept flying into the cab of our truck and we saw several all along the route we drove.
We live near the original village of Apple Valley, just northeast of the intersection of Navajo and Highway 18. We drove to the shopping area at Highway 18 and Dale Evans Parkway. All along Highway 18, the moths came into our windows.
Sunday evening, we barbequed hamburgers, so we were outside again. I got out my camera and took several photographs of these moths. This morning there were moths in my kitchen sink, some dead and some alive, and I again took photographs.
That is when I Googled “Apple Valley Moths,” and read The UC’s California Agriculture report from April-June of 2008 on the light brown apple moth pest (Epiphyas postvittana).
The UC report says the reproductive organs of the moths must be compared in order to positively identify the moth (Epiphyas postvittana). I figure I will publish these pictures and let the experts decide if our moth is the light brown apple moth.
Although Michelle Lovato confirms in her book “Apple Valley” that this California town was named for the apple orchards that grew here in the early 1900s, Apple Valley is currently devoid of commercial orchards of any kind. Part of the high desert of the Victor Valley that includes Hesperia, Victorville, Oak Hills, Phelan and Adelanto, this is now a bedroom community largely full of commuters who work in San Bernardino and Riverside.