Dangerous maggot larvae found in apples that Gov. Jay Inslee gifted to wildfire-ravaged town
A math problem:
Over the weekend, Gov. Jay Inslee brought honey crisp apples from his orchard to eastern Washington.
7 went to an old friend in Omak.
40 or so went to a church in Bridgeport.
48 went to the mayor of Malden.
If some of those apples had dangerous maggot larvae in them – and they did – how many of those pests are now waggling their way into Douglas County apple orchard soil?
That’s a problem the state Department of Agriculture is now trying to solve.
Thurston County, where Inslee lives in the governor’s mansion, is under apple maggot quarantine, whereas Douglas County is not. It’s illegal to bring apples to Douglas County, apple country, from Thurston County.
Inslee said in an email statement that he and his wife Trudi wanted to express comfort to these communities, which wildfires all but burned to the ground. The communities had been annoyed that Inslee arrived with apples -- of which they have plenty -- and not supplies -- of which they are short. Discovering that these apples were infested with maggot larvae did not help matters.
“We regret this mistake," Inslee said. "This is a good reminder of the importance of awareness around apple quarantine.”
But Douglas County folks did not treat view this as a “mistake” or “a good reminder.” On the county Facebook page, they tacked a breathless Wanted poster for the maggots, complete with baby maggot mugshot.
“On September 12, 2020 Governor Inslee visited Bridgeport to survey the damage from the Pearl Hill Fire. With him he also brought honey crisp apples grown at the Governor’s Mansion in Olympia, some of which he also gifted to the town of Malden and a retirement home in Omak during his visits in the days prior.”
The post continues: “Unfortunately, we learned today that the apples that were delivered to Omak have tested positive for apple maggot larvae.”
And continues: “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. We know that they were left at the Foursquare Church shortly after 11 am, but they have not been seen since and we have been unable to find a contact with knowledge of their location.”
And then came this alarming information: “There is reason to believe that they may have been dumped in a local orchard or transported with other, non-contaminated apples from the area.”
Joy Lewis, a hemp farmer who has lived in the Bridgeport area for 25 years, said the community is upset. She had no patience for the governor, who she believes may have inadvertently threatened the livelihood of apple orchardists.
“He should be fined and go to jail," she said.
Update 6:03 p.m. 9/16/2020: The apples have been found. They were in a refrigerated trailer. An inspector came to get them. Here is a video of the inspector "taking possession" of the apples.