PORTLAND, Ore. -- They're small. but don't let their size fool you. The Japanese Beetle has set up shop in the Cedar Mill neighborhood and it's got people living in the area noticing.
“The huge number of beetles were found in a trap by one of the properties in the Oak Hills neighborhood,” said Virginia Bruce, who has lived in the area for more than two decades.
The beetles were found last year. It wasn’t just a few found in a trap, it was a huge infestation that was uncovered.
“This is the largest Japanese Beetle infestation ever detected in Oregon's history,” said Clint Burfitt. He’s with the Oregon Department of Agriculture and he’s heading up the eradication effort.
The bugs can eat most any greenery, and not just in people's backyards.
“Orchard fruits, so things like cherries and apples, many of your berry crops. So blueberries, blackberries and also wine production would be impacted. They love to eat grapes,” Burfitt said.
He said if the beetles keep spreading, Oregon's roughly $1 billion agricultural industry could take a hit.
“Once this population continues expand, it will be impossible to eradicate,” said Burfitt.
If they don’t get rid of the beetle now, Burfitt said it’s possible that in five to ten years the people living in Cedar Mill would have no choice but to use pesticides in order to grow their plants.
That's why on Monday, the Oregon Department of Agriculture will begin spreading granular insecticides on people's lawns. For the last couple of years the ODA has been doing the same thing near the Portland International Airport, where a smaller scale effort to take out some of the beetles has also been underway.
In Washington County, the eradication zone is roughly 1000 acres. That area includes about 2000 homes.
“We're starting Monday. We're going to be treating approximately 400 properties on the west side of the treatment boundary,” said Burfitt.
The majority of people living within the boundary feel similarly to Bruce. She’s in support of the eradication effort.
“The choice really is, accept this granular application now or look forward to a lifetime of spraying to be able to grow anything,” said Bruce.
Others are concerned about the insecticide and its effects.
“We specifically chose an insecticide that has the softest environmental profile and we chose a product that specifically states is non-hazardous,” Burfitt said.
Out of a total of 2000 homes that will be affected, the ODA has received consent forms for 1700 or so. The few hundred left still need to be contacted. About 20 people have outright refused to let the ODA onto their property.
Burfitt said if a property owner refuses, workers will not go onto the property. The ODA will continue to try to work to find alternatives. But if things can’t be worked out with the homeowner, the worst case scenario is involves getting a judge to sign off and allow workers onto the property.
The ODA will work its way across the treatment area. It’ll take about six weeks.
The Japanese Beetle has been making its way to Oregon from the Midwest and East Coast. People bring the bugs along when they move with plants, or through cargo on an airplane.
For folks who do allow the ODA to spread insecticide on their lawns, expect to see the beetles again this year.
“When those new emerging larvae go into the ground in July, then they’ll be eating the soil and that’s the life stage we’re targeting. We’re targeting the most vulnerable life stage,” said Burfitt.
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