No positive reports of invasive species for summer tree-check effort

Oct 2, 2021, 11:59 AM
invasive insects, invasive species...
The invasive Japanese beetle is a scarab beetle with a copper-colored shell. (Washington State Department of Agriculture)
(Washington State Department of Agriculture)

The state’s Invasive Species Council ended this year’s Tree Check Month with promising news.

The annual program, conducted during the summer by the council in partnership with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture, encourages people to check trees, garden lights, and any sources of standing water in their backyards — such as swimming pools, pet bowls, and birdbaths — for invasive insects. Those who found suspicious bugs were asked to submit photos to the council for further inspection.

Dozens of photos were submitted, but not one of them turned out to be a positive report.

“I know that might sound counter-intuitive — ‘Oh, you didn’t get any’ — but no, that’s great,” said Alexis Haifley, education and outreach coordinator for the Invasive Species Council. “That means of all of the people who were looking out there and all of the folks who reported, everything that they found was a native species.”

State agencies ask residents to check backyards for invasive insects

The reports that the council did receive showed harmless “twin” bugs — for example, an insect that has very similar coloring to the invasive Japanese longhorn beetle. This indicates further good news — that Washingtonians know what traits to watch out for.

“People are getting quite good at finding native lookalikes, which is excellent,” Haifley said. “That means that they’re looking in our guides, they’re paying attention to what they’re finding in their yards. Almost all of the reports that we got were the really close native species that tend to be dupes for the invasives.”

Haifley said even though summer is over, you should still keep an eye out — and when in doubt, send in a photo of possible pests you find.

“It takes one positive report from one person to realize that there’s a problem,” she said.

She emphasized that entomologists would much rather sift through many false alarms than chance letting a single invasive bug slip through the cracks.

“The earlier that we can detect these species means the faster that we can respond to them, and the better chance we have of actually eradicating them before they become a widespread problem,” she said.

A prime example of this is the Asian giant hornet effort. Last year, half the reports that the state Department of Agriculture received of Asian giant hornets were from members of the public. This year as well, it has been citizen scientists sending in photos of hornets that have led entomologists to the point of eradicating three nests so far.

For more information on what invasive insects look like, check out the guide on the Invasive Species Council’s website.

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No positive reports of invasive species for summer tree-check effort