By DAN WHEAT
OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A bill allowing the state Department of Agriculture to transfer money to local pest boards to help them fight apple maggot has passed the state House.
HB1889, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger, would enable the department to move $150,000 in fruit inspection fees paid by growers to local pest control boards to help them keep apple maggot from becoming a problem.
"I'm pleased to see this bill move forward so we can ensure our quality produce is not tarnished by the apple maggot," Chandler said.
The bill passed the House unanimously on March 6 and went to the Senate.
Apple maggot has long been on the East Coast but was discovered in Portland, Ore., in 1979. It is active in western Oregon and Washington but has spread more slowly into Eastern Washington for lack of enough hawthorne and other hosts plants. For the last decade or more, it has been a relatively low-level problem in backyard fruit trees, but not yet in commercial orchards.
Local pest boards want to keep it that way.
It hasn't become a major threat to orchards because of the lack of host plants, said Mike Klaus, entomologist with the state Department of Agriculture in Yakima.
It also may be hampered by Eastern Washington's drier climate and by the timing of fruit on hawthorne and crab apples, he said.
We Yee and Lisa Neven, entomologists for USDA Agricultural Research Service in Wapato, are researching the apple maggot's ability to spread and modeling potential growth areas based on elevation, moisture and other parameters, Klaus said.
All of Western Washington and portions of Spokane, Kittitas and Yakima counties are under state apple maggot quarantine. The Leavenworth area of Chelan County was added in 2012 because of apple maggot flies trapped at a dozen sites. None were found at those sites in 2012 because of treatment but the area remains under quarantine because pupae can over winter for three to five years, Klaus said.
Part of Benton County was being considered for quarantine but was not because pupae found in a crab apple tree in Kennewick turned out not to be apple maggot, he said.
Under the quarantine, apples, cherries, plums, prunes and quince, but not commercial pears, from commercial orchards must undergo inspections and be certified as pest free before being sold if a fly is found within half a mile an orchard. If the apple maggot worm is found in fruit it must undergo cold storage to kill the maggots before being exported.