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By Gig Conaughton
County of San Diego Communications Office 

Keep off Santa's naughty list – don't pack a pest

 

Last updated 12/26/2018 at 3:02pm

Invasive pests can find their way into luggage.

It could be mealy bugs in that homemade fruit basket, gypsy moth eggs hidden in the wreath from grandma's house, whiteflies in those hand-picked poinsettias or a dangerous plant virus in citrus picked from the backyard.

Nobody wants to give – or get – a gift like that. They're not only going to gross somebody out, they could also wreak havoc on San Diego County's $1.77 billion agricultural industry.

So, remember this holiday season: don't pack a pest.

The holidays are all about traveling, sending and exchanging gifts. And if residents are not careful, they could accidentally pack a hitchhiking, invasive pest into their luggage or into a homemade gift.

San Diego County's Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures works every year to keep out invasive pests like the goldspotted oak borer, light brown apple moth, Asian citrus psyllid and South American palm weevil and stop them from harming local growers and the environment.

This year, through Nov. 30, AWM's High Risk Import Program has intercepted 170 agriculturally dangerous pests, and AWM's detector dog teams have sniffed out and intercepted 52 pests hitchhiking in on shipments through the U.S. Postal Service. Twenty-seven of those pests – including magnolia white scale, fig wax scale, lesser snow scale, which are tiny parasites that attach themselves to plants, and Pacific mealybug – can all harm the local agriculture industry.

So, as residents are heading into the holiday travel and gift-giving season, here are some handy guidelines to follow:

Don't pack a pest.

If residents are traveling – whether it's out of state or out of the country – they should leave whatever they find on the trip right where they found it. Don't bring home a keepsake clipping from Aunt Penny's holiday wreath, or those bulbs they found in Florida, any citrus branches, leaves or stems from anywhere or avocado leaves from Mexico.

Don't transport any fresh, raw, uncooked, untreated foodstuffs, seeds, beans, nuts, rice, dried fruit, decorative greenery, untreated wood items, animal products or soil from almost any foreign country.

If someone is traveling and think they may have accidentally packed some plant or animal item away, declare those products when asked by an agricultural inspector if there's anything in their luggage.

For more information about dangerous insects, plant diseases and Agriculture, Weights and Measures – and everyone's – role in protecting the local environment and agriculture, visit AWM's Insect and Plant Disease Information webpage at https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/awm/ipd_info.html.

 

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