Eric LaGasa, State Entomologist for the Washington State Department of Agriculture was the speaker at last night's Scarab meeting. Boy does this guy know his bugs! He had a very detailed and enjoyable presentation discussing various new pests that have been discovered over the past few years, mostly new invasive creatures here to eat our apples and enjoy our lawns. Ugly critters like the European Cranefly, the European wireworm, and the Apple Clearwing Moth -- all new to our area in the past few years and, lacking natural enemies, terribly hard to control. Yuk.
I was surprised to hear that new bugs are discovered basically by accident. There is no funding for a systematic statewide survey. Instead, entomologists hear about new invasive insects appearing in other places and rely on chance reportings from affected people.
One disappointment in his talk was his frequent, irrelevant diatribes against international trade. He says, bizarrely, that apple growers (of all people) refuse to spend money to find invasive insects out of concern that their exports will suffer if other countries hear we are plagued by pests. I guess farmers just sit back and hope the problem goes away since new pests would cost them, oh, only a few billion dollars--a small price to pay to keep those exports going. Hopefully his future presentations will stick to entomology instead of trade bashing.