The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service released nearly $17 million in emergency funding Feb. 7 to help California eradicate the European grapevine moth.

The money indicates the federal department recognizes the importance of California’s wine and table grape crops, said Larry Hawkins, a Sacramento-based spokesman for the USDA, and wants to prevent the pest from becoming established.

The quarter-inch long moth was first discovered in California in fall 2009. The 2011 emergency funding is nearly double the federal commitment in 2010 and enables the joint federal-state-county campaign to set 25 traps per square mile, up from the 16 traps per square mile level last year, Hawkins said.

When the pest was found in traps last year, grower-shippers treated the area with baited attractant, which brought very good results, he said.

“Once the bait was out there, the numbers found in the traps fell through the floor,” Hawkins said.

An advantage for growers is that the moth “is something of a homebody and doesn’t fly very far,” he said. Another advantage is that the moth has few plant hosts, which narrows the regions where it may be found.

“It prefers grapes, and its second favorite is olives,” Hawkins said.

Eradication can be declared, as per international protocols, if no moths are found in traps over a period of three life cycles, which would end in late summer, Hawkins said.

The moth larvae burrow into grapes and can cause major crop damage, he said.