The Washington State Department of Agriculture said it has started treatments to eradicate an invasive Japanese beetle infestation in central Washington. The agency said it plans to treat around 2,000 acres in Grandview and surrounding areas of Yakima and Benton counties.
The highly invasive pest eats more than 300 different plants including roses, grapes and hops. If left to reproduce and spread, the beetles would pose a serious threat to farms, gardens, and the environment of Washington state, officials said.
"The Japanese beetle is a highly destructive plant pest that can be very difficult and expensive to control," according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Agriculture officials said last year they had tracked the beetle's activity since the 1980s and occasionally a beetle would be found. But they couldn't explain the recent exponential growth.
Last year, officials caught more than 24,000 Japanese beetles in the area.
Acelepryn, the product being used to treat the area, is a low-risk insecticide that is not hazardous to people or pets, officials said.
Licensed applicators will apply the product to plant foliage or directly to the soil. Agency staff will also monitor the treatment progress and seek permission to treat from people at properties who haven't yet responded to the agency's requests.
The agency also will set traps to continue to monitor the beetle and are considering a quarantine of the infested area to limit the spread of the pest.
Japanese beetles were first found in the U.S. in New Jersey, according to the USDA. Since then, the beetles have spread throughout most of the Eastern U.S. and partial infestations also occur west of the Mississippi River.
The effort to eradicate the beetles comes just days after state officials warned that another invasive species — the— is consuming and competing with native species in western Washington.
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