The battle against invasive pests is constant. And as Washington state knows, it can be critical to protecting key industries, as noted with the recent Asian giant hornet finds. But there are more invasive pests to monitor, and every year the Washington State Department of Agriculture sets out thousands of traps.
Trappers from the agency will set those thousands of traps statewide to monitor for the introduction or spread of more than 120 invasive pests and diseases, including gypsy moth, Asian giant hornet, apple maggot and Japanese beetle. But this year, the effort will be different.
State law gives WSDA authority to trap for invasive pests on private property. And in the past, trappers would attempt to gain permission from property owners before hanging traps. This year, due to COVID-19 concerns, WSDA will use a “no-knock” policy. Traps will be placed without first contacting property owners. This is to protect both the community and WSDA employees.
When setting out traps, WSDA employees will be identified by safety vests bearing WSDA on the back. If property owners want a trap removed before the end of the trapping season, they need to call 800-443-6684.
New trap program
For the first time in agency history, traps will be set for Asian giant hornets after WSDA confirmed the first-ever sightings of the invasive insect last December. Asian giant hornets have been the focus of national news, and they pose a threat to honeybees and other insects. And while they’re not generally aggressive to humans, they can deliver a dangerous sting if they feel threatened.
WSDA plans to place about 300 traps for Asian giant hornets in Whatcom County.
But there’s more trapping work going on. The agency continues its decades-long survey for gypsy moths, and trappers will place about 20,000 traps statewide this summer. This includes intensive trapping in areas of Snohomish County that were treated for gypsy moths in May to ensure the insects were eradicated in those areas.
Gypsy moths post a risk not only to agriculture, but they can also threaten Washington's forests, parks and cityscapes. This invasive species can cause extensive damage by eating more than 500 kinds of trees and shrubs, and it has been known to defoliate entire forests.
WSDA points to the fact that in 2018, Massachusetts lost one-quarter of all its hardwood trees in the state, including three of every four oak trees. The bug reproduces rapidly, with each female laying 1,000 eggs or more. Early detection and eradication are critical for control.
Washington state efforts over the years have kept gypsy moth from becoming established in the state.