Expect no curtain call for the pink bollworm, the most pernicious pest in Southwestern desert cotton fields, when the heavy drape falls to crush the ‘pinkie’ once and for all.

The near successful eradication of the pinkie is due to an arsenal of weapons: transgenic Bt cotton, sterile moths, pheromone rope, trapping, boll cutting, and limited insecticides.

Eradication of the pinkie continues to near, cotton experts conclude, but is not a done deal.

The pink bollworm, Pectinophora gossypiella, is native to Asia. It first appeared in the United States in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley in 1917.

The PBW devastates cotton and bottom lines. Female pink bollworm moths lay eggs inside the cotton boll. Larvae chew through the fiber to reach the seed and destroy the green bolls.

The four states at war with the pinkie include Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Northern Mexico has made tremendous strides in the eradication fight.

For more than four decades, PBW has been kept out of California’s San Joaquin Valley through an aggressive trapping program to monitor it and by dropping millions of sterile pink bollworm moths to overwhelm any native populations.

Wally Shropshire of Blythe, Calif., the 84-year-old chairman of the California Cotton Pest Control Board and the last remaining member of the original board formed in 1967, said the success of the eradication program in Far West Texas and Arizona has put PBW on the fast track to eradication.

“We are 99.8 percent there,” said Shropshire. “The eradication program has been a great success with the combination of the pheromones, sterile moth releases and Bt cotton.”

Another factor has been plow down rules to prevent PBW overwintering.

Shropshire has always been optimistic Western cotton producers would eventually, “get a handle on the pinkie. I knew we could control it, but I never thought we could eradicate it until we eradicated the boll weevil in the desert cotton growing areas of Arizona and Southern California. That encouraged me to believe we could do the same thing to the pinkie. And I think we have.”

Shropshire said he does not expect the California PBW program to change in the near future.

“Cotton acreage is coming back in the San Joaquin and we need to continue the program to keep a close watch out for the pinkie.”