Governor delivers maggot-infested apples to areas devastated by fires, WA officials say

Brooke Wolford
·2 min read

A gesture of goodwill from Washington’s governor led to a hunt for maggot-infested apples he brought to areas of the state dealing with wildfires, Douglas County officials said.

Gov. Jay Inslee visited a few areas hit by the Pearl Hill Fire to survey the damage, bringing with him honey crisp apples grown at the governor’s mansion in Olympia, according to Douglas County officials.

Olympia is in Thurston County, which is in the state’s apple maggot quarantine zone, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture. Its website says that “state law prohibits the movement of homegrown fruit ... into or through a pest-free area.”

Douglas County is a “pest-free area” and four days after Inslee’s visit, officials discovered that some of the apples were infested with apple maggot larvae.

In a statement, Inslee said, “Last week Trudi and I wanted to express comfort for the communities suffering from devastating fires. When I visited some of these areas, I took some apples we picked from our tree in Olympia. We regret this mistake. This is a good reminder of the importance of awareness around apple quarantine.”

Apples given to a retirement home in Omak tested positive for the maggots on Wednesday, according to the county’s post. Some apples were also left in Bridgeport.

“We are desperately seeking the help of all Bridgeport and Douglas County residents or anyone who may have any information to help us locate the apples that were brought to Bridgeport,” county officials wrote.

Apple maggots have been a problem in the Pacific Northwest since 1979 when they were first detected in Portland, according to WSU’s College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Resources. Several counties in Washington are under the maggot quarantine, primarily in the West, the department of agriculture says.

“The purpose of the apple maggot quarantine is to stop the spread of apple maggot into pest-free areas of the state. according to the agency’s website.

While Gov. Inslee visited areas damaged by the Pearl Hill Fire, he brought apples grown in Olympia. Douglas County officials say they’re infested with maggot larvae.
While Gov. Inslee visited areas damaged by the Pearl Hill Fire, he brought apples grown in Olympia. Douglas County officials say they’re infested with maggot larvae.

Officials suspect some of the apples were “dumped in a local orchard or transported with other, non-contaminated apples from the area,” according to the Facebook post. “Apple maggots are an incredibly serious pest and could have dire consequences for the orchardists of Douglas County if we are unable to find the infected apples and mitigate the effects immediately.”

Apples infested with maggots will have brown spots inside, showing the trails left behind by the larvae, according to the agriculture department. Douglas County officials posted about the discovery on Facebook.

The insect feeds “while tunneling through the fruit flesh” for about 30 days until they “leave the fruit and enter the soil to pupate,” Dr. Jay Brunner, and entomologist at Washington State University, wrote on the university’s tree fruit website.

Anyone with information about where the apples might be is asked to call the Chelan-Douglas Horticultural Pest and Disease Board Director at 509-667-6677.