During a visit last weekend to areas in eastern Washington that had been burned by forest fires, the government took Jay Inslee a personal gift: apple pies grown at the governor’s mansion in Olympia.
Unfortunately, apples also brought something with them: a pest called the apple maggot that agricultural officials in Washington have worked relentlessly to prevent it from spreading.
A stomach eruption can destroy orchards, close warehouses and destroy confidence in the state’s staple crops. Washington’s apple industry generates about $ 2.19 billion each year and accounts for about 70 percent of the country̵
When a local pest control expert discovered that there was maser in the governor’s apples, he immediately began a desperate search for the forbidden fruit.
“It is of the utmost importance that these apples are safely discarded immediately,” wrote expert Will Carpenter, head of the Chelan-Douglas Horticultural Pest and Disease Board, on Facebook.
The state takes the threat of apple maggot seriously. People are not allowed to transport quarantined apples from counties in western Washington – such as Thurston County, which includes Olympia – to stomach-free counties in the east.
The system is dependent on self-education. And the governor had inadvertently taken boxes of infested apples to three stomachless counties.
“We have no apple-sniffing dogs stopping people at the border,” said Michael Bush, a pest specialist at the State Department of Agriculture. “The signs are daunting.”
The apple maggot spends most of its life underground, living like pupae and waiting for summer. In June, they emerge as flies and spend several weeks mating in the canopy. The flies then land on apples and lay their eggs. The eggs hatch into stomachs, which mouth through the fruit and leave brown, unappetizing streaks in the flesh. Finally, the worms come from apples, fall to the ground and turn into pupae – the cycle continues.
Sylvia Albertin, who runs an apple orchard in Kennewick, in a stomach-free county near the Columbia River, called it “a little surprising” that Mr. Inslee would violate the apple quarantine in the state he ruled. Still, she said most people would not realize that transporting apples between counties could be a problem.
“People do not understand what pests are or what to look for,” she said.
Mr Inslee apologized for the oversight at a news conference on Thursday, saying he had taken apples “as a gesture to the people to let them know in Bridgeport and Malden that they are not alone.”
“Obviously, we regret that mistake, and we hope that people’s awareness of this situation will be raised by it,” he said.
At one point during the hectic search for apples, Mr. Carpenter and his crew believed that the fruit had been distributed to the fire victims, scattered around and almost impossible to trace.
But on Wednesday afternoon, an aid worker found a collection of apples at the back of a refrigeration unit where crews stored perishable goods for people affected by the forest fires.
“They called me and I was down there in half an hour to pick them up,” he said in an interview.
Mr Carpenter said they had also recovered and destroyed a box of apples that the governor had delivered to Malden, as well as seven apples from a nursing home in Omak.