Agriculture

Don’t Pack a Pest, the Holiday Gift Nobody Wants

Hands zipping up a bag

It’s the holiday season — time for traveling and exchanging gifts!

But there are some gifts nobody wants, like things that could wreck agricultural crops, force quarantines and hurt our environment.

So, just remember: Don’t pack a pest in your luggage!

It’s easier to do than you’d think. In today’s era of high-speed travel, you can accidentally carry a hitchhiking invasive pest or virus on all kinds of plant and animal-related items — maybe on that keepsake branch from Aunt Jenny’s holiday wreath, those bulbs from Florida, on ornamental citrus branches from Asia or avocado leaves from Mexico.

So, whatever you find on your trip, leave behind on your trip when it comes to agricultural and related stuff, whether you’re traveling to another state or another country.

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

And if you are traveling and think you may have accidentally packed some plant or animal item away, declare those products when you’re asked by an agricultural inspector if you have anything in your luggage.

Is it important? You bet.

We all love our local and state agricultural products — from the fruits and nuts to veggies, chicken, eggs, beef and pork — and the agricultural industry is a huge part of San Diego County and California’s economy. But agricultural disease and pest outbreaks are happening everywhere all the time and can be carried by travelers to a new spot in a matter of hours.

San Diego County is already fighting to control numerous pests and diseases, such as the gold spotted oak borer that is killing our native oaks and the Asian citrus psyllid, which could potentially spread “citrus greening” disease and devastate our local citrus industry.

County Agricultural, Weights and Measures inspectors work year-round to keep potentially dangerous pests out by inspecting plant nurseries, shipping companies, the U.S. Postal Service, some retail businesses and occasionally Lindbergh Field.

But they can use your help too!

So remember: Don’t pack a pest!

RELATED VIDEO: Watch the County’s Detector Dog teams sniff out dangerous plants in this 2009 video. 

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