Thursday, August 25, 2022

Pest alert: Everett area residents asked to report sightings of oversized, striped-eyed grasshopper

Cassie Cichorz and Karla Salp
Pest Program and Communications

Close up of the head of an Egyptian grasshopper showing the striped eye
Egyptian grasshoppers have striped eyes
Photo credit: Hectonichus, CC BY-SA 4.0,
via Wikimedia Commons
It is grasshopper season and, if you live near Everett, it is a good time to keep your eyes peeled for an unusually large grasshopper with unusual eyes.

An Everett resident reported one Egyptian grasshopper (Anacridium aegyptium) to Washington State entomologists earlier this year and USDA entomologists recently confirmed it as the first detection of the insect in Washington State. The Washington State Department of Agriculture will conduct visual surveys in the area but is asking the public to also be on the lookout for this large grasshopper with striped eyes.

The grasshoppers typically feed on plant leaves. Adults are usually olive, gray, or brown in color and are most likely to be seen toward the end of summer. Young grasshoppers can be green and may blend in with vegetation. Males can grow to over two inches

Green grasshopper with striped eyes on a green leaf
While young Egyptian grasshoppers are green, 
they still have striped eyes.
Photo credit: Metin Gulesci

long and females can be almost three inches long. The key to identifying these insects is their eyes - they have distinct black striping on their eyes that sets them apart from other grasshoppers.

“An overwintering grasshopper could easily hitchhike, so this is another case where we are asking the public to help us figure out if this is just a single specimen,” Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist, said. Only one living, but sluggish, grasshopper has been confirmed. There is currently no evidence of an established population.

Residents near Everett who believe they have seen this insect should send a photo to for identification and include the location where it was spotted. If you believe you have seen one outside of Washington State, please take a picture of it, note the location, and report it to your State Plant Regulatory Official or State Plant Health Director.

Adult Egyptian grasshopper on a green leaf
Adult Egyptian grasshopper
Photo credit: Metin Gulesci
Egyptian grasshoppers are generally regarded as a minor pest of concern in their native habitat but could be an occasional pest to crops, orchards, and vineyards. USDA is gathering available scientific information to help determine the potential risk of this insect.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

At the fair, make sure show animals get “the blue, not the flu”

Karla Salp

pigs in a pasture with only the rear end with curly tails visible
Pigs with their curly tails in a pasture
As wild and domestic bird flu cases continue to expand to additional counties across Washington, another influenza (flu) strain is also picking up in the U.S. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the fourth case of swine flu in a human – this time in Oregon.

Influenza viruses can be passed between humans, birds, and pigs. Because of this, it is important to practice good biosecurity whenever interacting with either birds or pigs on your farm and when attending fairs and livestock shows.

Swine flu viruses are different from seasonal flu viruses that infect people. Flu vaccines don’t generally protect against swine flu; they protect people against seasonal flu, which can also spread to pigs.

No swine flu vaccine is available for animals yet in the United States, but work is being done to get an approved vaccine to use for control in the face of an outbreak, with promising vaccines demonstrating 100% efficacy in swine.

Swine flu can spread among pigs throughout the year, though rates increase significantly when infected pigs spend more than three days at a fair or livestock show. Reducing the time pigs spend at fairs to three days or less is one way to reduce the risk of spreading swine flu. The Swine Exhibitions Zoonotic Working Group has also produced a checklist for exhibition organizers and youth organization leaders to minimize the spread of influenza, which includes recommended actions to take before, during, and after exhibitions.

Pig in a pen at a fair
Pig in a pen at a fair
For exhibitors as well as visitors to pig exhibits, these recommendations help prevent the spread of flu between pigs and humans:

  • Avoid close contact with pigs that look or act ill. For exhibition organizers, pigs should be observed daily for flu-like symptoms. 
  • Wash your hands with soap and running water before and after contact with pigs or visiting a swine barn or exhibit. Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.
  • People that are 65 or older, children under the age of 5, people who are pregnant, and people with certain long-term health conditions have higher risk of serious flu complications and should consider avoiding pigs and swine barns.
  • Keep food, drinks, and baby items, such as toys, pacifiers, bottles, and strollers, out of areas where there are pigs.

“After the fair, don’t bring home more than that blue ribbon,” Dr. Amber Itle, Washington State Veterinarian, said. “When showing animals – especially pigs and birds – take extra precautions to prevent the spread of swine flu and other diseases.”

But don’t think it is just the pigs that can infect humans. Humans can also infect pigs, so if you are not feeling well, take precautions to prevent spreading disease to your animals or have someone else care for your animals until you feel better.

interspecies influenza transmission graphic showing how flu strains can spread between species

If you own both birds and pigs, they should always be kept separate to reduce the risk of infection and mutating viruses. Prior to COVID-19, the last global pandemic was swine flu in 2009 – infecting an estimated 60 million people and resulting in over 12,000 deaths in the United States alone. That strain had signs of combined human, bird, and swine origins.

Given the high numbers of detection of bird flu throughout the country this year, adding swine flu to the mix is an unwelcome prospect – increasing the risk of another infectious and potentially deadly influenza strain. Keeping pigs and birds separated and practicing good biosecurity could prevent the next pandemic.

Additional resources

Video: What is swine flu?

Take Action to Prevent the Spread of Flu Between Pigs and People | CDC

Key Facts about Human Infections with Variant Viruses | CDC

What People Who Raise Pigs Need To Know About Influenza (Flu)

Monday, August 22, 2022

Cicada killer frequently mistaken as northern giant hornet

Cassie Cichorz
Pest Program

cicada killer side-by-side with a northern giant hornet
With summer here, people are outside enjoying nature and noticing insects! Citizens are on the lookout and reporting suspect giant hornets. WSDA’s team has been hard at work reviewing hundreds of reports of suspect northern giant hornets. Most of the insects reported are not harmful and play an important role in the environment. One insect, the western cicada killer (Sphecius grandis) seems to be trending as the most common native bug mistaken for a northern giant hornet (Vespa mandarina).

If you can familiarize yourself with some features of the look-alike insect in the spotlight, you’ll be able to identify differences. The western cicada killer is a very common native wasp that can be almost as large as a northern giant hornet. Cicada killers can be seen from late spring and throughout the summer.

Cicada killers can be up to two inches long, just like the northern giant hornet. Differences in their head, thorax, or abdomen will help you distinguish between the two species. The heads of cicada killers are narrower than their thorax, while the northern giant hornet has a head as wide as its thorax. The cicada killer has round eyes, unlike the angular eyes of giant hornets.

cicada killer

The thorax on a cicada killer is reddish in color, while the northern giant hornet’s is black. The cicada killer’s thorax and head are about the same color, unlike the contrasting head and thorax of the northern giant hornet. Both wasps have translucent, amber-colored wings.

You can also check the banding on the abdomen for differences. The northern giant hornet has horizontal lateral bands or striping on its abdomen. The cicada killer’s bands will drop down like teardrops, or have dots between the bands.

Female cicada killers are solitary and dig their nests in the ground. You will often find their nests around areas with lots of sunlight, and sometimes you will see a mound of dirt near the entrance. Cicada killers do not actively defend their nests normally. Males can be territorial, but they do not have a stinger.

Northern giant hornet nests can be underground or in tree cavities. Unlike cicada killers, hornets are social and live in large colonies – which they will vigorously defend. Away from the nest, hornets are typically non-aggressive unless provoked.

WSDA has other information on look-alike insects, including a poster guide available for use and download. Click here to learn more about identification. Cicada killers do not need to be reported, but if you suspect you’ve seen a giant hornet in Washington State or are not sure if what you have seen is one or not, get a photo and report it at

Friday, August 5, 2022

Pest alert: Have you seen this huge moth? It just showed up in Bellevue

Karla Salp

The non-native atlas moth compared with large
moths found in North America. 
Washington State entomologists are asking the public to report sightings of the atlas moth after one was recently discovered in Bellevue. There are no known traps for atlas moths, so WSDA is hoping to determine whether there are additional moths in the area based on public reports. With this single atlas moth detection only, there is no evidence that an atlas moth population is established in Washington.

Residents are encouraged to photograph, collect, and report atlas moths if they are seen. The moths do not pose a public health threat and thus can safely be photographed, handled, and collected.

“This is a ‘gee-whiz’ type of insect because it is so large,” Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist, said. “Even if you aren’t on the lookout for insects, this is the type that people get their phones out and take a picture of – they are that striking.”

Washington State residents who believe they have seen this moth should send a photo to for identification and include the location where it was spotted. While there are no reports of atlas moth anywhere else in the U.S., if you believe you’ve found it outside of Washington State, please take a picture of it, note the location, and report it to the State Plant Regulatory Official or State Plant Health Director in your state.

The atlas moth found on a Bellvue garage
The moth was initially reported to WSDA via a University of Washington professor on July 7. WSDA entomologists identified it as an atlas moth and sent it to USDA for confirmation, which is the standard process for new pest detections. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Investigation Service confirmed the specimen as an atlas moth on July 27 and it is believed to be the first confirmed detection of the moth in the United States.
Atlas moth compared to a man's hand

One of the world’s largest known moths with a wingspan of up to almost 10 inches, it is also a federally quarantined pest – meaning it is illegal to obtain, harbor, rear, or sell live moths whether adults, eggs, larvae, or pupae without a permit from USDA. USDA has more information about permits on its invertebrate pets web page. While there is minimal research about the moth, entomologists believe host plants may include apple and cherry.

“This is normally a tropical moth. We are not sure it could survive here,” Spichiger said. “USDA is gathering available scientific and technical information about this moth and will provide response recommendations, but in the meantime, we hope residents will help us learn if this was a one-off escapee or whether there might indeed be a population in the area.” 

Note: This blog was updated on August 17 to reflect that rather than being the world's largest moth, it is one of the world's largest moths. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Industry and regulatory leaders to discuss using hemp products in animal feed

Amber Betts
WSDA Communications

When the 2018 Farm Bill allowed the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to begin regulating hemp production, many in the animal feed industry hoped to use hemp byproducts as a source of protein, fat, and fiber content in animal feed. However, while the bill allowed for production of hemp, it was silent on whether hemp ingredients could be allowed. 

Animal feed experts at the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) will join the Association of American Feed Controls Officials (AAFCO) and the National Industrial Hemp Council of America (NIHC) for a webinar next week to talk about this issue: “Why isn’t hemp in animal feed? A discussion on overcoming challenges and gaining approval.” The webinar is scheduled for Aug. 9, from noon to 4 p.m. Eastern time.

In addition to the nutritional value, hemp ingredients are a potential alternative to existing, more costly, but already approved ingredients. It is essential to ensure safety for each ingredient for every intended animal species, as well as the humans that may consume meat, eggs, or dairy products from animals that consume these ingredients. Each species has differing nutritional requirements for their various life stages that are typically met through a complete and balanced feed fed for long periods of time. Alternatively, humans can choose what they eat on a daily basis to get their nutrition from a variety of food sources.

Interest in including hemp in commercial animal feed has gained traction since USDA’s Agricultural Improvement Act (also known as the Farm Bill) passed in 2018. However, use of the ingredient in animal feed and pet food remains under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state regulatory agencies with an established safety review for all ingredients.


The meeting organizers’ goal is to connect industry peers, and discuss the challenges and how to move forward to make hemp a safe and beneficial feed ingredient.

Fifteen leading experts from feed manufacturing, hemp production, scientific research, and regulatory oversight will participate in a three-part panel discussion, Q&A and conversation around:

  •     Scientific research and data,
  •     Ingredient review and approval, and
  •     Interests and concerns

More information on the event, and to register can be found online at:

Learn more about this conversation here: