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“No knock” invasive pest trapping season starts

WSDA trapper hanging gypsy moth trapThe Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) is beginning its annual hunt for pests that threaten the state’s environment and agriculture industry. Trappers will set thousands of traps statewide to monitor for the introduction or spread of over 120 invasive pests and diseases, including gypsy moth, Asian giant hornet, apple maggot and Japanese beetle. 

State law gives WSDA authority to trap for invasive pests on private property. In the past, trappers would nevertheless attempt to obtain permission from property owners before hanging traps. This year, due to COVID-19 concerns, WSDA has a “no knock” policy, and trappers will place traps without first contacting homeowners. This is to protect both the community and WSDA employees. 

WSDA trappers are identifiable by the safety vests they wear bearing “WSDA” on the back. If you want a trap removed from your property before the end of the trapping season, please call 1-800-443-6684.

For the first time in agency history, traps will be set for Asian giant hornets this month after WSDA confirmed the first-ever sightings of the pest in the United States last December. Asian giant hornets, the recent focus of national news, pose a threat to honey bees and other insects. Additionally, while they are not generally aggressive toward humans, they can deliver a dangerous sting if they feel threatened. 

WSDA will initially place about 300 traps for Asian giant hornets in Whatcom County. 

In addition to trapping for this new pest, the agency continues its decades-long survey for gypsy moths and trappers will place approximately 20,000 gypsy moth traps statewide this summer. This will include intensive trapping in areas in Snohomish County that were treated for gypsy moths in May to ensure the gypsy moths were eradicated in those areas. 

Gypsy moths pose a significant risk not only to agriculture in the state but also threaten Washington’s forests, parks and cityscapes. Gypsy moths cause extensive ecological damage by eating more than 500 kinds of trees and shrubs and have been known to defoliate entire forests. In 2018, for example, Massachusetts lost a quarter of all their hardwood trees in the state, including three of every four oak trees. Gypsy moths also reproduce rapidly, each female laying 1,000 eggs or more, meaning early detection and eradication is critical to controlling this invasive species.