Friday, August 26, 2016

Horses hit hard with West Nile virus in northeastern WA

Mike Louisell

Photo credit: Erin Danzer
Ten confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in horses have been detected so far this year in Washington, with the most recent cases in Stevens, Pend Oreille, Lincoln and Spokane counties. Warmer weather seems to have prompted the spread of mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus into these northeastern parts of Washington.

The first case of the year came in late July involving a horse in Grandview, Yakima County, the state’s traditional hotspot for the West Nile virus. Since then, the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (WADDL), operated by Washington State University in Pullman, has reported nine additional horse cases to WSDA.

The cases include:

  • A horse in Creston, Lincoln County, in guarded condition. It had not been vaccinated for West Nile virus.
  • A horse in Sprague, Lincoln County, in fair condition. It was vaccinated as a foal and yearling. 
  • A horse near Elk, Stevens County, has been euthanized. It was not vaccinated.
  • A horse in Kettle Falls, Stevens County, in guarded condition. It was not vaccinated.
  • A horse in Colville, Stevens County, in fair condition. It was vaccinated.
  • A horse in Newport, Pend Oreille County, is in fair condition. It was not vaccinated.
  • A horse in Cheney, Spokane County, is in fair to good condition. It was not vaccinated.
  • A horse in Cheney, Spokane County, died recently. Tissue tested positive for West Nile virus. Vaccination history unknown.
  • A horse in Deer Park, Spokane County, is in fair condition. It was not vaccinated.
  • The horse in Grandview, Yakima County was showing neurologic signs including stumbling and difficulties eating when the case was reported in late July. It was not vaccinated. It was the first horse report for 2016.

Washington had 36 confirmed cases of horses with West Nile virus last year, leading the nation with nearly 17 percent of confirmed equine cases. The virus is spread by mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds. The disease sickens people, horses, birds and other animals, but it does not spread directly from horses to people or other animals. The risk of a horse becoming ill lingers into fall.

Vaccinations against West Nile virus and reducing mosquito populations are the main strategies for protecting your horse. Spring is the best time for the vaccination but some veterinarians say it’s never too late to vaccinate for some protection against the virus.

Other tips include:
Remove standing water from yards and barns that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, including old tires and garbage that may be rain soaked.
Change water at least weekly in troughs or bird baths.
Keep horses in stalls or screened areas during early morning and evening hours when mosquitoes are most active.
Put fans inside bars and stalls to maintain air movement.

Visit our West Nile virus webpage for more on protecting your horse against this disease.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Gypsy Moths and National Parks - Not a Good Mix

Karla Salp
Pest Program Outreach Coordinator

Male gypsy moth on branch
On my recent visit to the East Coast to view gypsy moth damage, I realized upon picking up my rental car that taking the brand new Jeep down the best roads to see gypsy moth defoliation could be costly for the State of Washington.

Luckily, I met Dr. Bob Cook – a biologist with the National Park Service on the Cape Cod National Seashore – who had a beat up Ford pickup perfect for going down the roads less traveled.

Roads Less Traveled 

The roads we drove were primarily dirt and maintained by the occasional car driving down them, as evidenced by the not-infrequent fingernail-on-chalkboard branches scraping the side of the pickup and the occasional “tree branch tunnel” through which we passed.

Driving along Highway 6 on my way to meet Bob earlier, it had seemed as though everything was defoliated; I could even see male gypsy moths fluttering near the trees as I drove. However, as we made our way through the lonely roads, we noted that some of the oak trees in the National Park were lucky enough to escape damage.

Soon enough, though, we discovered sites of complete defoliation. It was awe-inspiring to see the sun streaming unhindered through the naked forest, knowing these trees should have been lush, green, and shady at the end of July.

Gypsy Moths Are Smart

We continued to make our way from hollow to ridge (a difference of a mere few hundred feet) as we wove in and out of various levels of defoliation. Where the forest was totally leafless, moths and egg masses were scarce. But upon returning to areas that had only been partially defoliated, moths were fluttering everywhere and egg masses began appearing again on the trees.

The gypsy moths were no fools. They were defoliating entire acres of forest and then moving to new, healthier forests to lay their eggs, enabling the young to hatch out next spring in a stronger, healthier forest.

Oak trees starting put leaves back on at the end of July
Gypsy Moths and the Tourism Problem

Touring the park, I couldn’t help but think of the 15 national parks in Washington that together receive more than 7.6 million visitors a year.

Like our parks, the Cape Cod National Seashore also receives thousands of tourists each year. But tourism in the area had been dampened by the outbreak owing to the nuisance caused by the moths making camping a nightmare.

I saw reports on social media of tents being covered with male moths and even someone who had a female lay eggs in their sleeping bag!

This is the second year of defoliation in the area, which is a major stress for the trees. It could be enough that some of the trees may die. If they are defoliated again next year, entire sections of the forests in the National Park could die. 

Heading back to the National Park headquarters, I reflected with gratitude that our own national parks are safe from the gypsy moth, though it will take continued diligence to protect our forests.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Weights and measures officials, industry tackle emerging issues

Jerry Buendel
Weights & Measures 

You might think that things don’t change much in weights and measures work. After all, a pound still weighs out at 16 ounces.

Jerry Buendel
Government regulators and industry business leaders, however, have a lot on their plate as they respond to new technologies, emerging threats to consumers and fair competition in selling their products and services. At last month’s meeting of the National Conference on Weights and Measures in Denver, the list of topics was long.

Taxi meter codes were updated. Regulations governing the use of GPS systems used by Uber, Lyft and similar enterprises were discussed. And while most of us run our vehicles on gasoline or diesel, regulations for the sale of compressed and liquefied natural gas and hydrogen vehicle fuels were passed by members. Conference attendees were also offered training on a worrisome new crime—credit card skimmers. We’ve even had card skimmers at work at Washington’s gas stations. Fortunately, they were caught and prosecuted.

These are some of the same issues I’ve been involved in as program manager for WSDA’s Weights and Measures Program.  I had the privilege of serving as chairman of the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) this past year and continue to be impressed by the cooperation between government and industry in developing sound regulations.

WSDA Weights and Measures

Inspector tests fuel accuracy at gas station
There are benefits being involved with regional and national organizations. I’ve been able to get specialized training for my field staff from the experts at the National Institute of Standards and Technology as well as improve my network of industry contacts. Our motor fuel quality manager has been a part of that too.  He has participated in the meetings as a committee member on motor fuel quality standards.  While I was out of my Olympia office because of commitments to the NCWM, our supervisors stepped up and took the initiative to work cooperatively, plan and solve problems and assist their Washington customers.

My program has 14 field inspectors, the state metrologist and support staff. Many of you may have seen our state stickers on fuel meters and grocery scales. If you ever have a problem with a weights or measures issue, you can reach us at (360) 902-2035 or e-mail us at

Monday, August 22, 2016

Tips for horse owners – protecting your animal from Equine Herpesvirus

Dr. Scott Haskell
Assistant State Veterinarian

Late last week, the Department of Agriculture was notified of one laboratory-verified case of Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy, or EHV-1 wildtype, in Washington.

EHV-1 is a highly contagious virus that can be fatal to horses. The disease is spread from horse to horse through direct contact, on feed, tack and equipment. While people are not made sick by the virus, they can carry the virus on their clothes or hands. Horse owners should carefully wash their hands and equipment to prevent the spread of the virus.

WSDA is not currently establishing any quarantine, but our field veterinarians are actively tracing all areas where the infected horse might have contacted other animals.

Given the high risk of contamination, here are additional recommendations for horse owners.

Watch for symptoms
Closely observe your horse and look for signs of possible infection, which include:

Fever of 102.5 degrees F or higher
Discharge from eyes or nose
Limb edema or swelling
Spontaneous abortions
Neurologic signs such as an unsteady gait, weakness, urine dribbling, lack of tail tone and recumbency.

Be sure to obtain and record the body temperatures of all horses on the premises twice a day, ideally first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and always before administering medications since some can decrease body temperature.

Let your veterinarian know if you detect a fever or notice any of the other symptoms listed. The veterinarian may want to take nasal swabs or blood samples to test for EHV-1.

EHV-1 testing at WSU
Suspected cases should be checked for both West Nile Virus and EHV1 by a veterinarian.  The Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Pullman is providing testing.

Veterinarians should contact WADDL at 509-335-9696 to submit a red top and lavender top tube with nasal swabs directly to Dr. Jim Everman or Dr. Kevin Snekvik at WADDL.

It’s not too late to vaccinate your horse against EHV and there are a number of vaccines available.

Several EHV-1 vaccines available in North America carry a label claim for the control of respiratory disease induced by EHV-1 and EHV-4. These are multi-component inactivated vaccines specifically, Prestige® (Merck), Calvenza® (Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica) and Fluvac Innovator® (Zoetis) and the modified live vaccine Rhinomune® (Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica).

There are also two EHV-1 vaccines licensed for the control of abortion and respiratory disease. These vaccines are single-component inactivated vaccines, namely Pneumabort-K® (Zoetis) and Prodigy® (Merck).

Biosecurity – steps to protect your horse and others
To protect your horse from becoming infected, and help limit the potential spread of this virus, there are several things all horse owners should be doing.

1. Monitor all horses on your premises.
2. Limit direct horse-to-horse contact.
3. Limit stress to horses.
4. Don’t share equipment.
5. Clean barn areas, stables, trailers, or other equine contact surfaces thoroughly, removing all organic matter (dirt, nasal secretions, uneaten feed, manure, etc.) before applying a disinfectant. Organic material decreases the effectiveness of any disinfectant, especially if 10% bleach is used.
6. Use footwear disinfectant and hand sanitizer where indicated.
7. If you have a potentially exposed horse, restrict human, pet and vehicle traffic from the area where the exposed horse is stabled.
8. Clean all shared equipment and shared areas, again removing dirt and manure before application of a disinfectant.
9. Self-quarantine animals with questionable sysmptoms.
10. If you have mules, isolate them from horses since recent studies suggest mules can be silent carriers of the virus.

The time of exposure to illness of EHV-1 is typically two to 14 days. By self-quarantining animals with questionable symptoms, vaccinating horses for EHV-1 and West Nile virus, and practicing good biosecurity on the farm and during travel, horse owners can do a lot to help prevent further spread of the virus.

We’ll be sure to provide any updates here on the AgBriefs blog.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Fall Webworms Spinning Their Webs

by Karla Salp
Pest Program Outreach Coordinator

If you’re seeing web “nests” or “tents” in trees and lots of little caterpillars nearby, you have probably spotted a gypsy moth imposter.
Fall webworms in lilac tree

We have been receiving many reports recently of gypsy moths from concerned citizens who have spotted some of these webs. We definitely want to know about gypsy moths, but luckily what you are seeing right now are just fall webworms.
Close up of fall webworm nest. Black spots are frass (poop.)

Fall webworms hatch out of eggs in mid to late summer and begin spinning protective webs in trees. The webs protect them from predators, such as birds, so they can eat the leaves of the tree where they find themselves in relative peace.

While the web-covered branch or branches may be unsightly, the fall webworm infestations are usually nothing to be too worried about. Unlike gypsy moths, which can decimate entire forests, fall webworm infestations are usually limited to a branch or two within a tree.
Burning infested branches

You don’t have to take any action, but if you want to, controlling the pest is relatively easy. You can simply prune out the infested branch and burn it. Remove it as soon as the fall webworms are detected as the caterpillars will continue to grow and expand their nest, eating more of your tree along the way.

Learn more about the gypsy moth and common imposters on WSDA’s website.

Note: Before burning branches, be sure that there isn't a burn ban in effect in your area.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Roots run deep at Washington farmers markets

Laura Raymond
Food Access and Regional Markets Program

Walk most any farmers market in Washington state this week (and I hope you will) and you’ll encounter a dizzying variety of products.

This week is Farmer’s Market Week by proclamation of the Governor. Now at the height of the growing season, farm tables offer up glowing peaches, nectarines, and plums, glossy eggplants and peppers, fragrant melons, heirloom tomatoes, vibrant greens, crunchy cucumbers, pastured meats and cheeses, and a constellation of fresh cut dahlias and lilies.

Washington farmers grow more than 300 fruits, vegetables and other commodities but it might be the deep-rooted carrot that best represents what’s so valuable about farmers markets.

Farmers markets aren’t just the magical places where grocery lists go to be transformed from being a chore. They transform into places for new recipes, fun and adventure. Farmers markets provide multiple, and deep rooted benefits to shoppers, farmers and communities.

Farmers markets are places of direct and joyful commerce where you get to talk directly to the farmer who grew your food. They are incubators for fledgling enterprises that often grow into generational businesses. Last year, sales at farmers market members of the Washington State Farmers Market Association topped $44 million dollars. That’s “no small potatoes” in terms of local economies. The dollars shoppers spend at farmers markets go directly to the producers, keeping farming viable and keeping farmers on the land and caring for the agricultural landscapes we all can enjoy.

Neighborhood businesses

Farmers markets add sparkle and energy to neighborhoods. Commerce spills over the edges of the markets and supports many neighborhood businesses. As places where people come together from many walks of life, markets also cultivate community. With music, community information, chef demonstrations, kids’ activities, and time to talk while you shop, farmers market days can become not-to-be missed social events.

If you’ve had the opportunity to chomp down on a fresh-picked, sweet and crunchy carrot, you know the availability of delicious, fresh produce at farmers markets makes it easier to eat healthfully. Most farmers markets in Washington accept WIC and SNAP benefits markets, making healthy produce more accessible for all.

That’s why when a group of creative farmers market supporters came together to choose an image that captures what farmers markets mean to farmers, communities, shoppers, and our state, they chose the deep and intertwined roots of a row of carrots. A series of graphics, including "These Roots Run Deep," have been produced in English and Spanish through a WSDA Specialty Crop Grant Program Project awarded to the WSU Small Farms Program. One goal is to promote buying specialty crops (mainly fruits and vegetables) directly from growers at farmers markets.

Farmers Market Week Aug. 7-13

Farmers Market Week runs Aug. 7-13 and many markets are adding special activities to celebrate. Find a market near you at the Washington State Farmers Market Association website.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Gypsy Moth Outbreak Tour

Karla Salp
Pest Program

Map of Gypsy Moth Tour through Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts
Gypsy moth tour route
At the end of July I flew back East to see first-hand the devastation that the gypsy moths had caused in the largest outbreak the area had seen since 1981 – damage so vast it could be seen from space. The tour gave me a good idea of the risk these invasive pests can pose to our own region. Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing in more detail about the trip and what I learned. Here is an overview of where I went and the gypsy moth situations there.

Female gypsy moths and egg masses on oak tree

Connecticut was where I saw my first-ever live gypsy moths. After meeting with the nation’s oldest agriculture research station in New Haven, I continued on Interstate 95. Not far out of New Haven I began to notice defoliation, got off at the next exit and found female gypsy moths laying eggs on trees.

Rhode Island

My meeting with a forestry employee fell through, but that left more time for touring the state. I went up and down the state, which even weeks after the caterpillars were gone still showed massive defoliation mile after mile.

Cape Cod
Gypsy moths mating on tree limb
Gypsy moths mating on tree limb in Cape Cod

Gypsy moths in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, developed well behind Connecticut and Rhode Island owing to its cooler climate. Although the moth peak was the week before I arrived, there were still plenty male and female moths to see and a lot of mating happening. Many of their forests were barely beginning to releaf out after having been completely defoliated. In addition to the defoliation of the oak trees, many pine trees had also been munched on.

Partially eaten leaves and new leaves starting to leaf out
Partially eaten leaves and new leaves starting

The last stop on the trip still offered new things to discover. The Shawme-Cromwell State Forest had been nearly completely defoliated not just this year but last year as well. The oak trees showed signs of stress, such as a last-ditch effort at survival by sprouting leaves along the trunk. Many atypical plants were defoliated, such as rose and blueberry bushes. Most dramatic, and foreboding for Washington, were the evergreens. Several had been completely defoliated and stood dead in the forest, awaiting removal by the park service.

The trip allowed me a chance to capture a number of videos and photos of the gypsy moth and the damage it can cause. I’ll share more of that in future posts on this blog.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Testing reveals additional products used in marijuana production contain undeclared pesticides

Hector Castro

WSDA has updated its list of products containing undeclared pesticides, and removed one product that was previously on the list.

Inspectors with WSDA’s pesticide and fertilizer compliance programs have found several products commonly used in horticulture and hydroponics, including marijuana production, with undeclared pesticide chemical compounds in their ingredients.

WSDA issued several “stop sale” orders and Notices of Corrections to the manufacturers and the businesses selling the products, and partnered with the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board to notify licensed marijuana production operations and retailers.

One product, SNS 217C All Natural Spider Mite Control Concentrate, was originally included on the list of stop sale items, but has been removed after further testing revealed the product did not contain pesticide ingredients.

Samples tested

Testing is being done on 39 product samples taken March 9 and 10 from four businesses in Clark and King counties. Results so far indicate 17 of the products contain pesticide ingredients not declared on the label.

WSDA is still awaiting results on one final product. The products identified as including undisclosed pesticides so far are:

1. Safergro Mildew Cure for Powdery Mildew Control
2. Humboldt Roots
3. Olivia’s Cloning Gel
4. Optic Foliar AT-AK
5. Optic Foliar Overgrow
6. Optic Foliar Switch
7. Rock Resinator Heavy Yields
8. Root 66 1-1-1
9. The Hammer
10. Frost Protection Plus
11. NPK Mighty Wash
12. OG Rapid Flower + Hardener
13. Pyyro K 0-3-7
14. Vita Grow Thunder Boom
15. SM 90
16. Ultimate Wash
17. Mega Wash

The notice and list of products found with undisclosed pesticides is posted on the agency’s Pesticide and Fertilizer Use on Marijuana in Washington web page and will be updated as additional test results become available.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

New WSU president and agricultural representatives get acquainted


Washington State University, established in 1890, has a long history of working with and supporting our state’s agricultural community. And the diverse array of farming, ranching, processing and growing interests across Washington are well aware of that connection.

WSU President Kirk Schulz and
WSDA Director Derek Sandison
That was confirmed at a meet-and-greet with industry representatives and WSU’s new president, Kirk Schulz, initiated and hosted by WSDA’s Director Derek Sandison. With only 45 days under his belt at the helm of this institution serving more than 29,000 students, President Schulz said he appreciated the opportunity for face time with the 25 agriculture reps who attended the gathering in Yakima on July 28.

In his opening remarks, Schulz noted that he grew up in large urban areas and knew little about ag. “While attending Virginia Tech, I met a student majoring in poultry science – I didn’t know there was such a thing,” he joked.

But his seven years as president of Kansas State University – as well as teaching stints in Mississippi, Michigan and North Dakota -- gave him experience with the vital connection between education, research and agriculture.

Washington Cattleman's Association Executive VP Jack Field
speaks with WSU President Kirk Schulz.
Every person at the meeting acknowledged the importance of their partnership with WSU. Representing fruit, beef, dairy, wheat, grain, wine, potatoes, mint and more – attendees around the table gave the president an overview of their area and sparked discussion of issues important to them.

From the animal diagnostic lab to endowments; the Wine Science Center to on-campus greenhouses, speakers cited examples of how WSU adds value to their industry.

For instance, Jay Gordon with the Dairy Federation, lauded “a neat WSU program that has kids milking cows and making cheese and ice cream.” He noted that veterinary students get to work on a dairy and food science students learn about dairy products. The cheese-making expertise from the famous Cougar Gold brand has broad value, he said.

President Schulz emphasized that he’s a big believer in collaboration and cooperation, across industry interests, as well as with other academic institutions such as the University of Washington and University of Idaho.

He ended the session by suggesting that the group convene regularly.
“It’s important to have these conversations on a regular basis, not just when there are problems,” he said.

Monday, August 1, 2016

WSDA names assistant state vet, search for state vet continues

Hector Castro

A veterinarian with extensive experience with large animals and agriculture will be joining WSDA as the new assistant state veterinarian.

Dr. Scott Haskell
Dr. Scott Haskell, whose family raised beef cattle, sheep and tree crops, has more than 30 years experience as a veterinarian. He begins his new position with the agency on Aug. 1.

Dr. Haskell is originally from Oregon and studied at the University of California, Davis. He was in large animal veterinary practice for 18 years before entering academia and public service, serving as a professor with Yuba College in California, where he was the director of the Veterinary Technology Program and chair of the school’s Agriculture and Plant Science Program.

Dr. Haskell is experienced in disease outbreak investigations and biosecurity and has a long history of working with the livestock industry, agriculture fairs and is currently a 4H advisor.

Washington’s Office of the State Veterinarian has a wide range of responsibilities which include enforcing state and federal regulations on livestock movement, investigating animal disease outbreaks, maintaining animal health records, and other animal movement records, as well as safeguarding the public by identifying and limiting the exposure to zoonotic diseases through disease surveillance, identification and traceability.

WSDA is continuing its search for a new state veterinarian, a position that is currently vacant.