Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue declared April “Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month.”
April is when a number of damaging invasive species known as Hungry Pests emerge and can be easily spread in the things people pack and move, such as outdoor items like grills, gardening equipment, wading pools and bicycles or patio furniture.
Hungry Pests attack trees, plants and agriculture, costing the United States about $40 billion each year in damages and expensive eradication and control efforts. Household moves increase the risk for the spread of these invasive species, since people can potentially transport them to new areas.
About 35 million Americans move every year, making the possibility of transporting invasive pests high. For instance, federal and state inspectors often find gypsy moth egg masses on outdoor household items and recreational vehicles in non-infested areas. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is offering a free checklist for household moves that includes suggestions and tips for reducing this risk. The agency is also working with the United States Postal Service’s My Move program to help educate the moving public about the things they can do to help prevent the spread of Hungry Pests.
“Hungry Pests can hide inside plants, fruits, vegetables and firewood, and spread in a number of ways, like on outdoor items you move to a new home or on an RV that has been parked outside and driven cross-country,” said Kevin Shea, APHIS Administrator. “It only takes one person to start a new infestation, which is why we all need to be careful and understand how to stop invasive pests.”
Here are key ways the public can help:
- Moving to a new home. Help protect your new city and neighborhood from invasive pests by removing eggs masses and insects from your patio furniture, grills, bikes and other outdoor items – before they are loaded onto the moving van or storage pod.
- Traveling within the United States. Before doing an out-of-state trip, make sure your car, RV or other outdoor vehicle is cleaned first. Check the wheel wells, bumpers and other hard-to-see areas to make sure they are free of soil, egg masses, and insects.
In addition to moves, pests can also be spread by:
- Mailing homegrown plants, fruits and vegetables. Commercially bought goods are regulated to meet government standards, including those for invasive pests, but items grown in a home garden are not. If you live in an area quarantined for a specific pest, don’t mail produce or plants from your garden to others. Contact your local APHIS office for more information.
- Moving untreated firewood. Invasive pests like the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle burrow inside wood to lay their eggs. Don’t take untreated firewood with you, for example, on camping trips. Instead, buy certified, heat-treated firewood or responsibly gather wood at your destination.
- Traveling internationally. It’s tempting to want to return with an unusual plant, a souvenir made from plants or wood, or even a piece of fruit as a snack for the plane trip home. However, U.S. laws prohibit many of these items from entering the country because they could harbor an invasive pest. Contact your local APHIS office to find out what’s allowed. And always declare these items to U.S. Customs and Border officials when you land. Failure to do so could result in unexpected delays and fines.
- Buying plants for your garden. When buying garden items in person, be sure to ask the retailer if they comply with federal and state quarantine restrictions to ensure their plants are free of invasive pests. Before you buy plants online, check if the seller is in the United States. If they are in another country, you might need an import permit or other documents to legally bring the items into the United States. Contact your local APHIS office for more information.
Finally, learn more by going to http://www.hungrypests.com/ or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. To report a pest or contact your local APHIS office, visit http://www.aphis.usda.gov/planthealth/sphd or call USDA Customer Service toll free at 1-844-820-2234 (Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern).