Washington Department of Agriculture inspectors are on their hands and knees this month looking for pests hiding in Christmas tree farms.
Inspector Tobin Gilbert is searching through a pile of needles in a farm near Tenino.
“Slugs, snails and yellow jackets would be huge,” said Gilbert. “If we send those to Hawaii, that shipment would be rejected.”
Many states and countries demand inspections of Washington State Christmas trees before they will allow them in.
At the Hunter Christmas Tree farm near Tenino, workers use a machine to firmly shake the trees before they are wrapped up for shipping to Mexico. Dead needles, spiders, lady bugs and other creatures fall to the ground during the shake.
Gilbert isn’t concerned about those, but he wants all bugs, slugs and snails off the trees before they’re shipped. It’s his job to protect Washington state’s Christmas tree reputation.
Washington is the fifth largest Christmas tree producer in the country, making the crop an economic priority.
Gilbert said if he finds pest on the forbidden list, he will instruct the grower to double shake the trees and re-inspect them. He said he’s rarely had to do that.