Spread Cheer, Not Invasive Hungry Pests, This Holiday Season

A Few Simple Actions Can Help Protect America’s Trees & Plants

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#USDA_APHIS–The December holiday season is the greatest gift-giving time of the
year, and can be a vulnerable time for spreading dangerous, invasive Hungry
Pests
. These pests can travel across borders, continents and oceans
with human assistance. They hitchhike in or on plants, produce or food
brought in as gifts from friends and families. Or they can hide in or on
firewood brought from another location to light a holiday fire. As such,
USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is asking the
public to help safeguard the nation’s trees and plants by taking a few
simple actions.


“By following a few simple steps this holiday season, consumers can help
protect the food on our nation’s tables and prevent billions of dollars’
worth of damage to our country’s crops and forests,” said USDA APHIS
Deputy Administrator Osama El-Lissy. “Although it’s winter, invasive
pests are still at work. It doesn’t take much to stop these Hungry Pests
from spreading, and the benefits are enormous.”

Here are some ways the public can help protect the holidays from Hungry
Pests:

Ordering Online: Poinsettias and amaryllis make festive gifts,
but be careful when ordering any plant online. To spread holiday
cheer instead of invasive pests, only buy or order plants from reputable
vendors that comply with federal quarantine restrictions. To be safe,
ask the grower if they are aware of and abide by all USDA regulations
for that particular plant.

Holiday Trees, Wreaths & Greens: When buying your holiday
tree, deck the halls with greens and holly, but be sure to buy them from
trusted sources. Established retailers make sure their suppliers follow
federal quarantine restrictions that prevent invasive pests from
hitchhiking on holiday trees and decorations.

Moving Firewood: For a safe and cozy yuletide fire, buy firewood
where you plan to burn it. If burning your own firewood, don’t move it
off your property or you may spread invasive tree killers like the
emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle. Instead, buy or
responsibly gather firewood near the place you’ll burn it. Or take
certified, heat-treated firewood with you instead.

International Travel: Traveling abroad for the holidays? Declare
all agricultural items to customs officials upon your return or you may
bring back more than memories. In addition to fresh produce, declare all
spices, grains and packaged foods, which could carry the destructive
Khapra beetle. Visit www.DontPackaPest.com,
a website sponsored by USDA and several partner agencies, to learn what
is safe to bring back and other valuable travel tips.

International Gift-Giving: International customs are fun to keep,
but be careful not to send or accept greenery, seeds, trees or plants,
including citrus, across borders. Citrus greening, citrus canker and
other devastating diseases are spread by the movement of infected
plants. This includes items made with citrus, such as floral
arrangements, wreaths, potpourri or seasonings like kaffir lime leaves.
Most international items can be found in the United States, so
discourage family and friends from sending them and buy them here
instead.

To learn more about ways to help stop the spread of invasive pests and
how to report signs of them to the proper authorities, visit www.HungryPests.com
or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter. The website includes
photos and descriptions of the 19 Hungry Pests, an online tracker of
federal quarantines by state, and phone numbers to report signs of
invasive pests.

Contacts

USDA APHIS
Abbey Powell, 301-851-4054
abbey.powell@aphis.usda.gov
or
for
USDA APHIS
Renee Tilton, 410-626-0805
rtilton@crosbymarketing.com