Washington, DC - April is Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is asking the public to help prevent the spread of invasive pests. These pests cost our nation an estimated $120 billion each year in damages to our environment, agriculture, and native species. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has identified 18 “Hungry Pests” as some of the most destructive invasive species that people can unknowingly spread in the things they move, pack, and bring home from vacations. “We can all play a role in stopping the spread of invasive pests during the course of our regular activities, from enjoying the outdoors to travelling to internet shopping,” said Osama El Lissy, deputy administrator of APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine program. “USDA-APHIS remains vigilant in safeguarding our nation from invasive species abroad, at our borders, and across the country, but it’s critical that each of us does his or her part to prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive species in a new area.”
Hungry Pests attack plants, crops and trees, and they can wipe out entire species, from citrus trees (including oranges, lemons, and grapefruits) to ash trees (used to make furniture, flooring, and baseball bats). Because they have no natural enemies here, invasive species can spread unchecked by nature. This month, USDA-APHIS is adding three new insects that we want people to help us stop: the coconut rhinoceros beetle, old world bollworm, and spotted lanternfly.
The coconut rhinoceros beetle – which, like its name, looks like a miniature rhinoceros – is destroying many species of palm trees, including date, oil, and the iconic coconut palm of Hawaii. The beetle uses its horn to bore into the palm crowns to feed on sap, which exposes the palm to disease. The old world bollworm is a serious threat to agriculture and could disrupt commercial production of many major commodities, including corn, cotton, small grains, soybeans, peppers, and tomatoes. The spotted lanternfly destroys a wide range of fruits and hardwood trees, and it could greatly impair the nation’s grape, orchard, and logging industries
Every day, USDA-APHIS and its partners work hard to keep invasive pests and diseases out of the United States and control those that may slip in. USDA-APHIS asks everyone to join this effort to help stop the spread of Hungry Pests through a few simple actions:
• Don’t move firewood; instead, buy firewood where you plan to burn it.
• Buy plants, including ones online, from reputable sources.
• Don’t bring or mail fresh produce or plants out of one state or into another.
• Declare plants and produce to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials when returning from international travel.
• Don’t move plants or produce outside quarantined areas.
• Wash dirt from outdoor gear and tires before going to or returning from fishing, hunting or camping trips.
• Clean lawn furniture and other outdoor items before moving them to a new location.
• Report signs of invasive pests at www.HungryPests.com.
USDA-APHIS is also introducing a new curriculum, “Hungry Pests Invade Middle School,” to encourage students across the country to learn more about invasive pests and the simple steps everyone can take to stop them. The goal is to educate young people about invasive pests, how they got here, the damage they cause and ways to stop them from spreading. Teachers may access the national, standards-based curriculum free of charge at www.hungrypests.com/resources/educators.php.
To learn more, go to www.HungryPests.com, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter. The website includes photos and descriptions of the 18 Hungry Pests, an online tracker of federal quarantines by state, and phone numbers to report signs of an invasive pest.
Abbey Powell, (301) 851-4054
Suzanne Bond, (301) 851-4070
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