Be mindful of invasive species, how to prevent the spread

Updated Apr 30, 2018
Asian longhorned beetles have the potential to cause more damage than Dutch elm disease, chestnut blight and gypsy moths combined, according to the USDA. Photo: WikipediaAsian longhorned beetles have the potential to cause more damage than Dutch elm disease, chestnut blight and gypsy moths combined, according to the USDA.
Photo: Wikipedia

In recent years, native plants have grown in popularity, but invasive plants, pests and diseases continue to wreak havoc on the environment and costs the United States around $40 billion in crop losses, damaged ecosystems and expensive control efforts.

April is designated Invasive Plant, Pest and Disease Awareness Month and it is important to educate both your crews and your clients on how to prevent the spread of invasive species.

Without natural predators to keep them in check, these species are able to grow and spread rapidly while destroying or displacing the native plants and insects.

Asian longhorned beetles, emerald ash borers and fire ants are all examples of invasive insects that are devastating and difficult to control.

The best way to counter invasive species is to prevent their introduction in the first place with some straightforward steps.

“People wonder if their individual actions really matter,” Osama El-Lissy, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Plant Protection and Quarantine Deputy Administrator, told Sierra Sun Times. “The answer is yes. If you’re not careful, you can unknowingly spread invasive pests by simply taking firewood on a camping trip, buying plants or seeds online or mailing a friend a gift of homegrown fruit.”

It is believed that citrus greening disease, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB), was spread from Florida to California when one person mailed an infected plant to the state. Yet by being observant, people can prevent the spread of invasive pests like when in 2010 a groundskeeper in Boston noticed and reported an unusual dime-sized hole in a tree.

It was quickly discovered that it was caused by Asian longhorn beetles and was an early enough warning that the city could respond and eradicated the pest completely.

Here are some basic steps to reduce the risk of spreading invasive species you can follow and share:

  • Always buy your plants from reputable nurseries or online businesses. Make sure they follow quarantine restriction to ensure their plant material is pest-free.
  • Check with the USDA office when traveling between states before bringing back fruits, vegetables or plants.
  • When using firewood, don’t move untreated wood. Buy or gather wood near the place you plan to burn it.
  • If your region is under a state or federal quarantine, advise clients to not move produce or plants off their property.
  • Contact the USDA if you suspect signs of an invasive pest.

For more information on invasive plants, pests and diseases, check out the USDA’s Hungry Pests website.

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