Who wants to be part of a citizen army helping to stop an invasion from a destructive force?
According to state officials, all you’ll need to help is an observant eye and a willingness to record what’s seen.
The state departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture, along with the Washington Invasive Species Council, are asking people to check trees, water features and other outdoor fixtures for invasive insects and diseases.
“We have a forest crisis and that means all hands on deck,” said Will Rubin, of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. “You don’t have to be a trained scientist, biologist or professional firefighter to help. Citizen scientists are able to help us catch it sooner than we would on our own.”
State officials are urging people to keep an especially close eye out for five specific invasive insects and diseases:
- Asian long-horned beetles: These large, glossy black beetles have white splotches on their wings and striking antennae with black and gray bands.
- Asian spongy moths: Often the egg masses, a brownish, almost hairy mass on the side of a tree or fixture, is seen first. The female moths are light with brown markings that resemble an inverted V pointing toward the head, while males are brownish with black markings and have a wingspan of 1 to 1.25 inches.
- Emerald ash borers: These small, bright, metallic-green beetles have flattened backs.
- Sooty bark disease: An infected tree may have small dead twigs that line up on one side of the trunk, or small cankers on the trunk. A heavily infected tree may show patches of what looks like sooty or burned wood below bark that has flaked off.
- Spotted lanternfly: An adult is about 1 inch long with a black-spotted gray forewing, gray-outlined black wingtips, and hind wings with a white band and patches of red and black.
Look closely on trees and outdoor fixtures such as birdbaths, garage lights, fountains and places where water pools, said Rubin.
“If you spot and report a new, tree-killing invasive species, your report could prevent widespread and long-lasting costs and impacts,” said Justin Bush, executive coordinator of the Washington Invasive Species Council. “It’s up to everyone to keep the Evergreen State evergreen.”
If you already exercise outdoors, DNR Urban and Community Forestry program manager Ben Thompson suggests adding a quick check of nearby trees for potential pests.
“With kids, you can even turn it into a game,” he said in a statement. “Challenge them to see how many different insects they can find. Kids are great observers; insects also fascinate many children. The reporting app makes it easy to help them file a report.”
According to a DNR news release, a Washington State University researcher found evidence of sooty bark disease while walking his dog through a Tacoma park. In June, a biologist made the first confirmed sighting of an emerald dash borer in the Pacific Northwest while he waited to collect his children from a summer camp west of Portland.
While not considered as significant a threat as the five species listed above, an Atlas moth — one of the world’s largest moths — was recently spotted in Bellevue. Officials believe it is the first confirmed detection of this species in the U.S. The agency is asking people to keep an eye out for the Atlas moth, which can have a wingspan up to 10 inches, so they can determine whether the recent sighting was a one-off or part of a local population.
Don’t be afraid to send in submissions even if you are not sure, said Rubin. They have people to review the submissions and expect false sightings, especially since some of the species have native look-alikes that can be hard even for professionals to distinguish.
He said the teams are prepared to weed through potential false sightings for the chance to catch an invasive pest before infestation.
Staff reporter Amanda Zhou contributed to this report.