Agriculture

Send Your Best, Not a Pest

suitcasepacking

Who would want a homemade holiday fruit basket — with creepy mealybugs? Or a clipping from grandma’s wreath with gypsy moth eggs nestled inside? Giant whiteflies hiding in hand-picked poinsettias, or some tree-killing bacteria in their holiday citrus?

Nobody, right? But it can happen. If you’re one of the millions of Americans who will be traveling this holiday season, remember — don’t pack a pest!

Follow this simple rule: Leave things where you find them. 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.

Here’s why. Modern travel is incredibly fast. You can actually carry a terrible pest or bacteria to another part of the country — or world — in just a few hours by taking plant or animal-related items with you. And those unwanted pests can wreak havoc.

Florida’s historic citrus industry is being devastated by “citrus greening,” a disease created by an invasive bacteria. Here in San Diego County, where we have a $1.7 billion agriculture industry, we continue to battle invasive pests like the goldspotted oak borer, the light brown apple moth, the polyphagous shot hole borer and South American palm weevil.

Inspectors from San Diego County’s department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures work year-round to keep potentially dangerous agricultural pests and diseases out of the county. They inspect plant nurseries, shipping companies, the U.S. Postal Service, some retail businesses and occasionally Lindbergh Field.

You can help. This year, AAA is projecting that more than 100 million Americans will be traveling over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season — the first time ever that travel has ever topped 100 million. Over 90 percent of them will be driving. But driving or flying, that’s a lot of opportunities for people to inadvertently carry unwanted, dangerous hitchhikers with them.

So remember, if you’re traveling — don’t pack a pest!

Gig Conaughton is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact