WASHINGTON — Spring is a popular time to move, but unfortunately, people aren’t the only ones on the move.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue signed a national proclamation (PDF, 579 KB) to declare April Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month.
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 noninfested areas.
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 www.hungrypests.com or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. The website includes photos and descriptions of each hungry pest, and a pest tracker to find those in your state.
To report a pest or contact your local APHIS office, visit www.aphis.usda.gov/planthealth/sphd or call USDA Customer Service at 844-820-2234 (Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern).
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