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Trapping season underway in Oregon for invasive insects

Thousands of traps being set for gypsy moth, Japanese beetle, & other damaging insects

Over the next few weeks, thousands of insect traps will be placed throughout Oregon in an effort to detect gypsy moth, Japanese beetle, and a host of other invasive insect pests that pose a risk to the state’s agriculture and natural resources. By the end of summer, the Oregon Department of Agriculture should have a good idea which bad bugs are problems this year and where they exist.

“We have trained 25 seasonal survey technicians and they are now putting out the traps for up to 20 invasive insects,” says Helmuth Rogg, manager of ODA’s Insect Pest Prevention and Management Program. “In the past, we really only looked for gypsy moth and Japanese beetle. Now we are on the lookout for a long list of invasive species that can potentially find their way to Oregon.”

While the list of unwanted insects has grown, the approach of early detection and rapid response remains the same. The placement of traps statewide helps detect any small population of invasive species that can be eradicated relatively easily before they grow and spread.

The most common and familiar trap is for the detection of gypsy moth. About 12,000 bright green or brown gypsy moth traps are being placed primarily on the west side of the state in the higher risk areas, including residential neighborhoods, parks and campsites, and along major waterways. The more common European gypsy moth is normally introduced to Oregon when new residents or travelers from areas of high gypsy moth populations in the eastern US unwittingly bring the pest with them on such things as outdoor household furniture or other items that may harbor gypsy moth eggs. A high density of traps will also be placed along the Columbia River and around the Port of Portland. These are areas where the Asian gypsy moth would likely be found after hitching a ride on cargo ships arriving from overseas. Unlike its European cousin, the female Asian gypsy moth has the ability to fly, which could lead to a more rapid infestation and subsequent spread.

Guarding against complacency is important in the battle to exclude gypsy moth from Oregon. Last year, only two moths were detected– both in the Grants Pass area. In 2012, only one gypsy moth was trapped, in Eugene. In 2011, there were no detections. The pattern suggests the threat is low, but Rogg and other entomologists are not convinced.

“For the fifth straight year, there is no gypsy moth eradication project in Oregon, which continues a record number of years,” says Rogg. “It’s a cyclical pest, but we still aren’t sure why our state has been so fortunate. It’s possible that we haven’t had a sufficient number of traps as we had in the past, because of budget cuts. It may take an extra year or two to detect a breeding population. We can’t relax and say that the gypsy moth problem in Oregon is over for good.”
In the mid 1980s, more than 19,000 gypsy moths were trapped and 225,000 acres were sprayed in Lane County alone.

ODA is putting out 3,000 more traps this year than last and hopes to get back up to 15,000 traps statewide in the next year or two.

“That would make us sleep better at night,” says Rogg.

Last year, ODA conducted a pilot project that brought in partner agencies to help place the traps. That effort was successful enough to continue the collaboration.

“The only two gypsy moths we found last year were both caught in a trap that the Oregon Department of Forestry put out for us near Grants Pass,” says Rogg. “ODF and other agencies like the US Forest Service can access remote locations and areas deep in the forest where our survey technicians can’t easily go anymore.”

Gypsy moth traps are non-toxic, contain a sticky substance inside, and use a pheromone to attract male moths. People should leave the trap alone, but should report to ODA if they notice one that is damaged or has fallen to the ground. Those traps will be checked throughout the summer and taken down starting in September.

About 2,500 Japanese beetle traps are being placed in high risk areas such as airports, golf courses, and nurseries. Last year, ODA caught 25 Japanese beetles statewide, all in the vicinity of Portland International Airport. This year, an eradication program is underway near the airport using a soil insecticide application on larvae in the spring and a foliar application to target adult beetles in the summer. Beetles typically arrive in Oregon on cargo aircraft from infested states back east. For the second consecutive year, no beetles were detected in Cave Junction, an area treated in 2011 and 2012.  ODA can now declare Japanese beetle as officially eradicated from Cave Junction.

It normally takes an ODA survey technician about three weeks to check the 800 or so traps placed around the airport. But about 300 of those traps will contain a tiny camera, which takes a nightly photo transmitted to a website checked by ODA the next morning.

“I can take five minutes and check those 300 traps every day from my computer,” says Rogg. “If we see a suspicious beetle in the trip, we can call our survey tech to go check on it. It saves time and is a great benefit.”

Traps for other invasive insects are being placed around the state, mostly for bad bugs that have yet to appear in Oregon. From Asian longhorned beetle to emerald ash borer, these insects would pose serious problems for agriculture, forestry, and the state’s watersheds. Traps will be ready to detect pests of wine grapes and stone fruit. A new commodity survey will look for insect pests of solanaceous crops such as potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers. Whatever the trap, whatever the pest, the detection phase of ODA’s program is critical.

“Our mission is to protect Oregon from invasive insect pests that could damage our state in many ways,” says Rogg. “If we stick to our system of early detection, rapid response, we have a chance to get rid of some of these devastating pests before they get well established.”

For more information, contact Helmuth Rogg at (503) 986-4662.

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