WALLA WALLA -- The hunt is under way for a small insect which is a big threat to the state's wine industry.
Washington state Department of Agriculture workers are setting out traps for the European grapevine moth, a destructive pest which has quarantined some California wine grape regions.
About 1,500 grapevine moth traps are being placed in each of the state's 11 major wine grape-growing regions. About 40-50 of the traps have been set in vineyards in the Walla Walla area, said John Lundberg, department spokesman.
Mike Klaus, WSDA pest survey coordinator for Eastern Washington, emphasized the grapevine moth has not been detected in the state, "but we want to be able to prove we don't have it here."
The trapping effort is being carried out along with annual efforts to detect other invasive pests, including the gypsy moth, the light brown apple moth, the silver Y moth and the false codling moth.
People are asked not to disturb the tent-shaped traps which can be spotted hanging from trees and grapevines. The traps are baited with pheromones to attract the moths, which are caught when the enter the trap and adhere to the sticky inner surface.
The grapevine moth was found in the U.S. for the first time last September in the Napa Valley. Since then it has been found in five other California grape-growing counties. Almost $5 million in state and federal funds have been spent to fight the pest.
If grapevine moths are found in Washington, agriculture officials will place more traps in the area in an attempt to find the center of the infestation. Officials say they will immediately consult with state and federal agencies and industry stakeholders to determine the best course of action.
Washington is the second-largest grape-growing state in the U.S. and number-two producer of premium wines with nearly 700 licensed wineries.
Andy Porter can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.