There’s nothing quite like the prospect of aerial application to whip up controversy among the general public — and that’s exactly what happened in Monterey County when CDFA announced intentions to spray a pheromone starting Sept. 5 in the ongoing battle to contain the light brown apple moth (LBAM).

Of course, CDFA didn’t phrase it exactly like that, and once the public got wind of the agency’s LBAM eradication plan, and the local media fanned the flames with headlines about “sex scent” and “aerial application,” the public relations backlash was enough to get CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura to put a temporary hold on the applications and appear in person to address the controversy.

In a letter to Monterey City Manager Fred Meurer, Kawamura wrote: “CDFA believes these treatments are critically necessary and should take place when scheduled, due to the life cycle of the pest. We chose materials that impact just this one moth, while impacting the public and the environment as little as possible. This approach is supported by the significant international consequences of failing to eradicate the pest. However, CDFA will not proceed without giving your council and citizens an opportunity to discuss these issues.”

At a public meeting in Monterey County in late August, Kawamura listened to citizens’ concerns over the application of pheromones.

“There were about 150 people in attendance,” says Jay Van Rein, spokesman for CDFA. “At this point, the secretary is considering the comments. No decision has been made, but I would expect there will be one very soon.”