WASHINGTON — It’s spring, which means many invasive Hungry Pests are emerging and will soon begin feeding on trees, plants and crops. These destructive species – which include the emerald ash borer, gypsy moth and citrus greening disease – cost the nation $40 billion each year in damages and expensive eradication and control efforts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has just added the European cherry fruit fly to this growing list. Fortunately, individuals can help slow or even stop Hungry Pests from spreading. That’s why April has been designated “Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month.”
Hungry Pests are invasive species that disrupt ecosystems, threatening to push out and eliminate native species. The European cherry fruit fly, the 20th pest in the group, attacks cherries. This pest was detected in the United States for the first time when fruit flies were caught in traps along the Niagara River in New York last year. If left unchecked, this pest could threaten cherry production in the United States. It can be introduced to new places through the movement of soil or infested fruit from areas where the pest occurs.
“Controlling the spread of invasive pests depends on everyone,” said APHIS’ Plant Protection and Quarantine Deputy Administrator Osama El-Lissy. “The main thing to remember is that if you move an item from one place to another, you have the potential to spread pests. So, before you bring back a souvenir from a trip, pack up a moving van or share vegetables from your garden, make sure your actions are safe ones.”
Here’s how you can help keep invasive pests from spreading now and throughout the year:
- Buying plants for your garden? Make sure to use reputable nurseries or online businesses. Ask if they comply with federal and state quarantine restrictions to ensure their plants are pest-free.
- Pests can also move through the mail. Take care not to send homegrown plants, fruits or vegetables from areas with known pests. Also, don’t mail these items or agricultural-based souvenirs from international trips to yourself or others.
- When traveling within the U.S., check with your local USDA office before bringing back fruits, vegetables or plants, so you know what’s allowed. And when returning from abroad, always declare all agricultural items to U.S. Customs and Border officials, so they can make sure those items are pest-free.
- Make sure to clean outdoor items before moving them. Wash dirt from outdoor gear and tires before traveling long distances to or from fishing, hunting or camping trips. If relocating to a new home, clean lawn furniture and other outdoor items before placing them in a moving van or storage pod.
- When enjoying the great outdoors, don’t move untreated firewood. Instead, buy or responsibly gather firewood near the place you’ll burn it – or bring certified, heat-treated firewood with you to use.
- If you live in an area under state or federal quarantine for an invasive pest, don’t move produce or plants off your property. Call your local USDA office to find out how to safely dispose of yard debris like trees and branches. Also, allow authorized agricultural workers access to your property for pest or disease surveys.
- Finally, report any signs of invasive pests by going to www.HungryPests.com.
To learn more, visit www.HungryPests.com or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter. The website includes photos and descriptions of 20 invasive pests that can be moved easily by people, an online federal quarantine tracker by state and phone numbers for reporting signs of invasive pests. Questions? Visit www.aphis.usda.gov/planthealth/sphd to find contact information for your local USDA office. Or call USDA’s Customer Service Call Center toll-free at 1-844-820-2234 (open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern).
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