Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Residents see Japanese beetles after spraying insecticide, entomologists explain why

Crews sprayed insecticide on lawns
in Grandview this past spring, treating
for the recently discovered infestation
of Japanese beetle.
Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

Just a few years ago Grandview residents didn’t have to worry about an invasive pest gobbling up their roses, or making it impossible to have a green and full lawn. Now, Japanese beetles are in full force as they’ve begun to emerge from their winter, underground homes.

Last year in 2021, we saw these non-native Japanese beetles grow exponentially in population. This year, before the ‘adult flight season,’ our eradication teams took to the lawns of Grandview and applied an insecticide to help curb the population of these beetles. So why are we seeing thousands of beetles? Didn’t the treatment work?

What was the point?

These questions may be on the minds of many Grandview area residents as we begin to see a larger population of Japanese beetles than last year.

Since last fall, Japanese beetle grubs have been underground, growing, and preparing to emerge this summer as adults. Our entomologists explain, the treatment that was applied this past spring will not affect the grubs. The active ingredient wasn’t strong enough to kill these ground-dwelling, uninvited guests, because they were too big, almost full grown So, now we’re seeing an even larger population of beetles this year. So why do the treatment at all? What was the point?

The adult beetles that are flying around our yards now, eating a big feast and mating, are laying eggs. These eggs will hatch very soon, and they will begin to eat the roots of the grass. Their regular life cycle says they will continue to grow all winter, and emerge as adults next summer. However, when they eat the roots of a treated lawn, because they are so small, they will not survive.

That’s why we won’t see the results of this year’s treatment until next summer, when the beetle eggs that were laid this summer begin to emerge from the ground and take flight. We anticipate seeing a decline in the population in summer 2023.

However, we can’t do this with treatment alone.

We need your help

Our teams are on the ground daily checking the Japanese beetle traps, more than 2,300, while also working on ways to dispose of our yard waste, and instituting a proposed quarantine that would limit the spread of this pest beyond the current infestation zone.

The quarantine proposal will have a public hearing on August 2. We encourage as many voices to participate as possible, it’ll be held at The Learning Center at 313 Division St. at 10 a.m.

While we are waiting for the final touches to be put on our yard waste disposal site, we are asking residents who want to join the fight against these pests to keep all yard waste like lawn clippings, sod, and others on their property until our site is ready. Crews are working hard to get the disposal site ready. Once it is ready, we will be able to take yard debris and green waste from all businesses and residents inside the infestation area. From there, we will be chipping the items to ensure they do not house a place for beetle larvae to hatch, grow, or reproduce. 

Keep an eye out for more information on that soon.

What else can I do?

Residents who want to do more to help can place traps on their property, reporting their findings, and use WSU’s treatment guide, to treat their properties for the adult beetles.

Be on the lookout for a treatment request from WSDA for next year’s eradication effort, pending funding, in early 2023. We want to get that second round of treatment on as many lawns as we can, to sway the Japanese beetle population from growing into our crops and ultimately affecting our food, and local ag economy. Residents and other interested parties can stay in the loop on all our efforts by joining the Pest Program email listserv. (make sure “Japanese beetle” is checked, or join the Japanese Beetle Watch Facebook group.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Governor Inslee: hornet hunter (for a day)

Karla Salp
WSDA Communications

Governor Inslee learns to use the tracking
 equipment that WSDA staff uses to track
and eradicate Asian giant hornets in Washington. 

Washington Governor Jay Inslee held a tracking receiver, looking intently into the woods, carefully listening for “beeps” as he found his way to the tracking device. Typically, the device is tied to an Asian giant hornet, used by WSDA staff to track and eradicate the pest.

Since the news that Asian giant hornets had been found in Washington in 2019, WSDA has been working to rid the state of these pests that threaten our agricultural vitality. This effort has garnered interest nationwide and has required research and training for WSDA staff and federal and neighboring state partners. Governor Inslee joined the crew of hornet hunters for a day, at the second-annual Asian giant hornet field training day. WSDA “hornet hunters,” as their hats affectionately call them, spent the day learning about trapping, tracking, and removing these hornets and their nests. 

The field training day served as an opportunity to cross-train staff on various aspects of the agency’s hornet response, including how to build, bait, and check hornet traps, trying on hornet protective suits, learning about and testing radio hornet tracking equipment, and even simulating a nest extraction.

Eradication coordinator Rian Wojahn
shows WSDA staff and Governor Inslee
how the vacuum works when
removing a nest. 
Hands-on learning

Governor Inslee was an enthusiastic participant and WSDA’s Pest Program was ready to provide hands-on opportunities for the Governor to see all that is involved with the tricky task of eradicating hornets:

·         Hornet suits – Outreach coordinator Cassie Cichorz demonstrated donning the hornet suit the team wears when eradicating hornet nests. Governor Inslee learned the “inside tricks” such as wearing a hard hat inside the suit to not only protect the staff member but help keep the suit hood propped up and easier to see out of. 

·         Tracking devices – Eradication coordinator Rian Wojahn explained how the program uses radio tags about the size of a Tic Tac to track the hornets. The governor then got to work with Nathan Chambers to use the tracking receiver and follow the “beeps” to locate a tag the team had hidden – and he found it!

        Education and outreach – Many of the outreach materials the team has created were on-hand and the Governor was able to learn about the extensive efforts WSDA has put into educating and engaging with the public about the importance of finding and eradicating hornets for our honey bees.

Nest extraction example. 
Drones – Nathan Roueche, the new Asian giant hornet project leader, had the latest addition to WSDA’s hornet-hunting toolbox: an unmanned aircraft system (UAS – aka a drone.) WSDA hopes to be able to deploy the UAS with a receiver attached to make it easier to track the hornets once they are tagged. Rather than relying on following the hornets on foot (through forested areas with thick brush and undergrowth) WSDA hopes to use a drone instead to track the hornet to the nest, and then limit the ground search to a narrowed-down area.

Visiting area zero

In addition to getting a close-up look at WSDA’s hornet-hunting tools, Governor Inslee also visited the area where the hornets have been the most active over the past two years. Several of the families that have actively supported the state’s hornet response - and which had hornets on their property at one time – met with the Governor and shared their experiences with the hornets.

Outreach Coordinator Cassie
Cichorz shows Governor Inslee
how to put on the "hornet suit."

Trudging through the forest, Governor Inslee got to see first-hand some of the challenging conditions the WSDA team works in to find and eradicate hornet nests. The Governor visited the site of the first nest eradication of 2021 (second nest overall) and got to see that WSDA tries to practice “leave no trace” as much as possible. The site was indistinguishable from the surrounding area, with local vegetation quickly having replaced the tree that had to be removed. There was no sign that a tree had even been there a year prior housing a giant hornet nest. The team had a hard time showing the exact spot thanks to the regrowth.

Critical to success: public and leadership support

The Governor dedicated the entire morning to visiting and learning about the hornet response from both the public as well as state and federal agencies. Taking that amount of time demonstrated just how important this project is to the Governor, as well as the rest of the state’s legislative leadership. The governor’s visit – spending time with both the public as well as the program – was emblematic of the collaborative approach that has made Washington’s Asian giant hornet response a model for the nation.

Friday, July 8, 2022

WSDA “Cook WA” pilot program encourages home cooking

Amber Betts 
WSDA Communications

As a mom, I know one of the most stressful questions my kids ask is, “What’s for dinner?” 

Let’s face it, we’re busy, and it’s hard to come up with creative, healthy, and delicious meals that everyone will eat – every. single. day. Add financial and food access barriers and it could seem nearly impossible at times.

A volunteer hands a CookWA
reusable shopping bag to a food pantry customer.
In the heat of summer in Wenatchee, Chelan Douglas Community Action Council Food Distribution Center volunteers set up the weekly food distribution tables and begin cooking a meal for taste testing – looking to help solve the healthy-tasty-dinner problem for local families. When food pantry visitors stop by and get pantry items May through July, they will also receive a reusable shopping bag full of the meal ingredients and a recipe card to make the demonstration meal on their own.

This food pantry organization is one of 12 including a tribal partner, participating in the WSDA Food Assistance pilot program Cook WA. This program was designed to provide Washington families access to locally sourced ingredients and easy-to-follow recipes aimed at incorporating more fruits and veggies to the day’s diet. In addition to the produce, spices and sauces are added to the mix to improve taste and flavor, while taking dinner tables across the globe with flavors used in different parts of the world.

The idea launched this summer was born out of a goal to meet the needs of low-income Washington families, created with families in mind who know the struggle of meal planning.

A 2019 study showed 77 percent of Washington state Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-eligible adults, and 82 percent of youth in SNAP-eligible families consumed less than the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

The first step to creating the Cook WA program and getting more produce on plates was to determine what ingredients were available across the state at local farms and through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). With this knowledge in hand, chefs around the state agreed to help create the recipes. The chefs include: The Governor’s Executive Mansion Chef, Quan Hoang, Frank Magana of Three Magnets Brewing in Olympia, Melissa Davis at WSU Extension Thurston and Lewis counties, and Elizabeth Campbell of the Squaxin Island Tribe. The goal in creating these recipes was to remove barriers to home cooking that some may experience. Some of those barriers identified by the WSDA team included accessibility to sauces and spices, a lack of basic cooking techniques, and the regular stress of meal planning and cooking.

One of the several recipes in the
arsenal of the Cook WA meal kit toolkit. 

While food pantries offer access to foods and ingredients, preparing a complete, nutritious, and tasty meal can be challenging for individuals facing food insecurity. A recent study found that food pantry clients were three times as likely to select targeted healthier food options (kale and whole grains) when recipe tastings and meal kits were available, compared to when neither was provided. Providing a meal kit with a tasting of the recipe doubled the selection of the targeted healthier food options when compared to providing the tasting alone. WSDA is surveying clients as part of the Cook WA pilot, and so far, 50 percent of respondents say the meal kits help them eat more fruits and vegetables. WSDA Food Assistance had recipes translated into six languages to further remove barriers to healthy, nutritious meals.

Each step of the recipe
was displayed as part of the
cooking demonstration. 

In addition to finding fresh ingredients directly from Washington farms, the WSDA Food Access team also worked to provide access to locally made sauces and spices to provide in the meal kits as well.

Some of the recipes include favorites like chicken pineapple coconut curry, Italian pasta and chickpea stew, roasted huckleberry chicken with kale salad, and bison and butternut squash chili.

These recipes and tool kits are also available on WSDA’s Food Access webpage.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Summer is here, but bird flu hasn’t flown the coop

Karla Salp

Chickens not confined to a covered shelter are
at greater risk for contracting bird flu
It’s been a bad year for bird flu across the country, even though it was only first detected in Washington in early May. At the time, state veterinarians were hopeful that Washington would scrape by without any cases or, once it arrived, that we would be over the worst of it by the end of June. Unfortunately, neither happened.

Washington’s backyard flocks and wild birds are still contracting highly pathogenic avian influenza, with the first detection in Kitsap County happening only this week. The prolonged period of detections has backyard flock owners asking when they can relax the biosecurity measures they have been taking to protect their flocks.

The short answer is: not yet.

Given the number of detections still occurring, Dr. Amber Itle, Washington State Veterinarian, continues to recommend that owners keep their birds isolated until 30 days after the last detection in the state.

While this may be challenging for owners, what they are doing is working! All of the flocks that have had detections have had contact with wild birds, especially wild waterfowl.

Keeping your birds covered and confined is best, but if you can’t, then here are some steps you can take to reduce your risk:

  • Separate domestic birds from wild birds
  • Separate domestic poultry from domestic waterfowl
  • Discourage wild birds from coming near your flocks
  • Only feed domestic birds indoors and remove feed at night (when wild birds often feed)
  • Lock up your flock’s feed in containers with lids
  • Remove bird feeders that might attract wild waterfowl
  • Fence off the ponds
  • Cover the chicken yard with netting·

Direct and indirect contact with wild waterfowl
has proven to be one of the greatest risk 
factors for a flock contracting HPAI this year
Most flock owners have been doing a tremendous job protecting their birds. And even though there have been several detections in backyard flocks, efforts by backyard flock owners, commercial flock owners, and state and federal officials have thus far prevented infection in commercial flocks, which would have a significant impact on the food supply and Washington’s poultry industry. (Did you know eggs are frequently one of Washington’s top 10 commodities?)

It may be tempting to just let your birds run loose as the weather warms, but biosecurity is still as important now as it was two months ago when bird flu was first confirmed here. Hopefully, warmer summer weather will help lighten the virus load and cases will begin to decline.

This outbreak has been tough on flock owners, veterinarians, and especially our birds who have been isolated and unable to run free. Hang in there, and reach out to friends and fellow flock owners for support during this difficult time. A BIG thank you to all our flock owners who are doing everything they can to protect their flocks and the surrounding flocks.

  Visit agr.wa.gov/birdflu for more information, including the latest detections in the state.