Thursday, September 30, 2021

Taking hornet nest removal to new heights

Karla Salp

WSDA's Pest Program uses a buck lift to access
the nest 15 feet up in an alder tree

Last week, WSDA’s Pest Program removed the third Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) nest of 2021, making it the fourth nest removed since the invasive hornet was first detected in Washington in December 2019. All of the nests have been in the same general area east of Blaine.

Most research on these hornets suggests that they normally nest in the ground and more rarely in trees. But so far, 100 percent of nests found in Washington have been in tree cavities. The entrance to this latest nest was over 15 feet above the ground. A thermal-imaging camera showed the nest itself was below the nest entrance.

The challenge posed by working on a nest so high up was compounded by the fact that the nest was also surrounded by dense trees and vegetation – especially blackberry patches as much as eight feet tall. The team of entomologists and others from the pest program had to use some new tools to eradicate this nest, including a rented bucket lift to raise them over the bulk of the vegetation so they could work safely at the nest entrance.

Just as in the other nest removals, once at the entrance, the team sealed up the tree and vacuumed most of the hornets out before sealing the entrance.

Inspiring Halloween costumes everywhere -
Dan DeVoe prepares to take down the tree with the nest

In addition to the height of the nest, it was also in a decaying alder tree. This made it risky to safely cut the tree down. A trail steward from the Department of Natural Resources was able to help. Wearing a bulky hornet suit, he cut the tree so it dropped right on target. Once the tree was down, he cut it into sections and split the tree open so the team could finish collecting the remaining hornets and the nest.

Queen and the nest
Here is what was found in the latest nest: 

  • 10 combs
  • 674 total cells
  • 86 empty cells
  • 128 eggs
  • 202 larvae
  • 261 capped cells
  • 185 workers
  • 0 males
  • 1 queens

Luckily, none of the three nests eradicated this year have had new queens, meaning the nest was found and removed before the queens could emerge, mate, and left to start new nests next year.

Two of the three nests this year were found from reports made by local residents, and this is the critical time to find nests before creating new queens. If you think you see an Asian giant hornet, take a photo and submit a report at

WSDA/DNR/USDA team that removed the 
third nest of 2021, fourth nest total

Video of activity at the nest as well as the nest removal is available on WSDA's YouTube channel

Monday, September 27, 2021

Taste Washington Day 2021 – celebrating the farm to school connection

WSDA Farm to School 
Purchasing Grant Specialist

 Each year, soon after students return to school, the annual Taste Washington Day is held as a way to promote both the farm to school movement serving local foods in school meals and Washington agriculture.

Yakima School District, Taste Washington Day 2020.
This year, Taste Washington Day 2021 will be held on Oct. 6. Schools from around the state have been encouraged to share their farm to school efforts, whether those activities are year-round, or once-a-year on this special day. Eighteen school districts and more than 20 farms have signed up to celebrate local foods in Washington. Visit to see the growing list of participating schools and farms.

To celebrate Taste Washington Day, schools are planning a range of fun and engaging activities, such as serving a Washington-grown food as part of breakfast or lunch, highlighting farm sources on menus, doing a “Washington Apple Crunch” at noon, sending students home with a “Taste Washington Day Recipe,” teaching lessons in school gardens, hosting a pop-up Farmers Market, and more!

Still time to join

Valley School District, local lettuce and tomatoes, 
Taste Washington Day 2020
School districts and farmers can still sign up online to be part of the event and share their plans with WSDA by the Taste Washington Day page on our website.

Local Washington-grown foods are a part of school meals in many school districts across the state as farmers support schools with products ranging from apples and pears to local cheese and yogurt, Washington-raised beef, seasonal veggies, grains, and legumes.

Washington is a major farming state with farms in every county, so Taste Washington Day is also an opportunity to teach students about agriculture by learning about what is being grown and produced in their own communities. 

Everett School District, 
Taste Washington Day 2020

WSDA partners with the Washington School Nutrition Association to organize Taste Washington Day, with support from Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Child Nutrition. Local nonprofits, parents, volunteers, and community partners also work to support Taste Washington Day.

Where to learn more

If you are a farmer or work at a school and would like more information about participating in Taste Washington Day, contact WSDA Farm to School Purchasing Grant Specialist, Annette Slonim at or 206-593-6953. You can also visit to learn more about WSDA’s Farm to School program.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Business accelerator for women in ag begins this November

Applications are being accepted now through October 15 for the second round of a training and networking program for women in Washington and Oregon who are in the food and agriculture business.

Hard apples at Stratton Farm in La Center. 
The Women’s Farm2Food Accelerator is set to launch in November and is a partnership with WSDA, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Foundation and the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). Participants in this 15-week program receive training on a host of business-related skills, from marketing and product development, to food safety and packaging. There is also opportunity for networking with others in the food and ag industry.

Virtual information sessions
For those who want to learn more about the Farm2Food Accelerator, how it works, and whether it can help them develop their business, organizers are hosting two virtual information sessions for potential applicants. Both sessions are one hour long and will be held on:
  • Sept. 29, 2021
  • Oct. 6, 2021
Each information session begins at 4 p.m. PDT with the first 30 minutes providing an overview of the Farm2Food Accelerator followed by a question and answer session.
Diane Fish and a vanload of donated produce
for the Kitsap Farm to Freezer operation. 

Past participant feedback
Participants from the first Farm2Food Accelerator said the experience gave them valuable tools to grow their business operations.

“The Farm2Food Business Accelerator Program has been a game changer for me,” said Rose Smith, whose Stratton Brothers Cider Co. produces hard cider from apples grown on Stratton Farm in La Center, one of the oldest farms in Washington’s southwest region. “Having knowledgeable consultants to answer my questions, keeping me on the right track, has been instrumental to me and my product.”

Another participant, Diane Fish, runs the Kitsap Farm to Freezer operation in Kitsap County, turning food donated from restaurants or gleaned from fields into ready-to-eat meals for hunger relief organizations. The tools she gained from the Farm2Food Accelerator helped her grow her work from pilot project to a socially beneficial program, she said.

Growing greens at Kitsap Farms.
Angela Cordiano operates Kitsap Farms in Hansville producing salad mix. The business accelerator program not only provided her with constructive feedback on her business ideas, she said, but also equipped her with practical tools.

“One of the things I struggled with the most with was what to charge for the different types of buyers,” Angela said. “The spreadsheet provided in the pricing module is a great tool that I will keep handy for a long time.”

Visit to learn more about the Women's Farm2Food Accelerator or to register for one of the coming information sessions. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Suicide rates high among farmers, ranchers

Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

Agricultural work can be a high-stress occupation.
With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, many people are struggling financially, mentally, and physically. Depression and other mental illnesses are of concern worldwide. On top of all the current event stressors, agriculture work is also a high-stress occupation.

When your livelihood is dependent on weather temperature, precipitation, feed prices, market demand for your product, and many other facets that effect the price of your product, it can be tough.

Farmers and ranchers have to almost predict the weather and the market, ward off pests, keep their workers safe, and still try to make a living, all while planning for contingencies. That’s likely why the suicide rate among ranchers and farmers are higher than the national average, according to the CDC.

Signs of suicide risk

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. September 5-11 was Suicide Prevention Week. During these observances, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness.

The Washington State Department of Health says there are a few signs that may indicate your loved one is having suicidal thoughts: if one starts talking or writing about suicide or death, feels hopeless, or like a burden, or begins giving away their prized possessions. There may also be cause for concern if your loved one is saying goodbyes, or stockpiling pills, isolating from others, acting recklessly, or a loss of interest in favorite activities.  Read about more signs of stress and warning signs your loved one may be at risk for suicide, and what you can do to help.


Given the seriousness of this issue, WSDA recently applied for and received a $500,000 grant to support the Farming Stress and Suicide Prevention Project. WSDA will administer the funds and work in partnership with the Washington State Department of Health and Washington State University Extension. The project’s intended purpose is to expand rural community-based education via trainings, resiliency workshops, and public awareness campaigns to combat the stigma around behavioral health, and connect specific stressors with behavioral health risks.

What can I do?

The National  Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention says there are several things you can do and say to be there for your loved one, friend, family, neighbor, even a client or an acquaintance you suspect might be struggling.

Checking in on a friend by phone or text message to see how they are doing can have significant impact to someone considering suicide. Inviting your friend to meet for coffee, or to share a meal, or sending a handwritten card are all ways to let someone know they are cared for, and bring them beyond their feeling of hopelessness. If your friend or loved one is struggling, share with them the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Number (800-273-8255), which provides 24/7, free, and confidential support. For specialized care, military veterans may press ‘1.’ In addition, anyone can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Being involved is simple, a short call, text, or even a note can help refocus someone to what is good in their lives, help them realize they can get through their struggles.


Friday, September 3, 2021

Japanese beetle count passes 20,000

Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

There have been more than 20,000 Japanese beetles caught in Grandview this summer. Sound the alarm, ring the bell, this is not good news. If established in our state, we could see dire results to our crops, our gardens, and even our grass.

These invasive beetles almost double the human population in Grandview, and it keeps climbing. Our Pest Program staff are working to determine just how widespread the beetle has become.

So far, the beetles are being detected in the highest numbers in the residential area of Grandview. A few, however, have crossed the road into rural areas where the crops many people rely on for our living are found. Adult Japanese beetles love to feast on more than 300 plants, including roses, grapes, apples, hops, and grass. They are highly destructive, difficult and expensive to eradicate or control.

Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica).
What is a Japanese beetle?

The Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) is a garden pest native to northern Japan. The adults eat the leaves, buds, and flowers of plants while the larvae attack the roots, particularly the roots of grasses.

How did they get here?

We’ve been trapping for Japanese beetle since the 1980s and occasionally find that they’ve caught a ride to our state, normally on a plane from an infested area in the Eastern U.S. But it has been more than a decade since even a single beetle has been detected beyond the vicinity of an airport. The larvae are found in soil associated with the roots of host plants, they are common under turf or sod and can be moved in potted plants.

What are we doing?

If you’ve been in Grandview at all in the recent months, you have likely seen traps hanging all over the city. That’s us, trying to determine the extent of the infestation. At the end of the season, we will look at the data we’ve collected and begin formulating a plan on how to eradicate these pests.

What can Grandview citizens do?

If you live in Grandview and have hung Japanese beetle traps, please report your trapping results. If you have seen the beetles on your property, consider treating your lawn following WSU’s treatment guidelines. Not all products labeled to treat your property for Japanese beetles are effective; WSU’s guidelines let you know which ones can work and how to properly apply

What happens next?  

Trapping for Japanese beetles will continue at least through September, after which our staff will begin removing the hundreds of traps currently in the area. The trapping results will inform both the eradication plans which are anticipated for next spring as well as a quarantine which is being considered to prevent the unintentional movement of the beetles into beetle-free areas of the state.

Get email updates on our progress and join our Japanese Beetle Watch Facebook group for the latest information and to connect with others working on responding to this introduction.