The Washington State Department of Agriculture plans a multimillion dollar campaign to eradicate the crop-threatening Japanese beetle in Central Washington.
The department has trapped more than 24,000 beetles in and around Grandview in Yakima County this summer and fall. It has requested $5.4 million to respond to the infestation over the next two years.
No beetles have been reported in nurseries, vineyards or other farms. The beetles, however, are considered a menace to agriculture, drawn to such crops as apples, cherries, grapes and hops.
The department plans to impose a quarantine by spring, possibly restricting the movement of soil, yard waste and plants. Commercial crops may have to be inspected before leaving the area, department spokeswoman Karla Salp said Tuesday.
The department also plans to hire pesticide applicators to spread granular larvicide in the spring before the beetles emerge from underground, where they spend 10 months a year.
The department is discussing whether to declare an emergency or seek permission from individual landowners to apply pesticides on their property, Salp said.
Washington law gives the state agriculture director and governor broad emergency powers to eradicate invasive insects. The department and governor use that authority to aerially spray gypsy moths. For Japanese beetles, applicators will be on the ground.
In the meantime, the department has encouraged farmers to consult with pesticide applicators and for homeowners to treat brown spots in their lawns, suggesting grubs are at work.
"Every little bit helps," Salp said.
The beetles are common east of the Mississippi and found in pockets in the Midwest and Plains. The beetles have been detected in the West, but are not established.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture has been spreading pesticides on lawns and flower beds in Washington County west of Portland since 2016 to eradicate Japanese beetles.
The Washington state agriculture department was tipped off last year that Japanese beetles were in Yakima County by a woman who reported dozens of beetles on her roses.
The department received $406,000 from lawmakers this year to trap and eradicate Japanese beetles. In response to the massive numbers of beetles caught this year, the department has asked for more money to apply pesticides, impose a quarantine and meet with landowners.
Most beetles have been trapped in a 7-mile-by-7-mile area. The beetles are heaviest inside Grandview, Salp said. The department is discussing how large the quarantined area will be, she said.
Japanese beetles likely be a more expensive problem for the state than either gypsy moths or Asian giant hornets. The USDA helps fund campaigns against those invasive species. The state does not anticipate any financial help from the USDA to eradicate Japanese beetles.
The USDA does have a quarantine to try to keep Japanese beetles from spreading on airplanes to Western states, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California.
It's unknown how Japanese beetles reached Central Washington, but grubs can be easily moved long distances in soil, according to the USDA.
The state agriculture department submitted its budget request to Gov. Jay Inslee. The governor will present a spending proposal for state agencies to lawmakers in December.