It’s the Holiday Season; So Don’t Pack a Pest

Hands zipping up a bag

When is a gift not a gift? When it’s carrying pests and destruction.

So do everyone a favor — don’t pack a pest.

The holidays are a time to travel and to exchange and send gifts. But we travel so fast in the modern world you carry or ship some bad bug or virus thousands of miles in a matter of hours. Your thoughtful gift could wreck agricultural crops, force quarantines and hurt the environment.

A homemade holiday fruit basket could carry creepy mealybugs. A clipping from grandma’s wreath might be laden with gypsy moth eggs nestled inside. Giant whiteflies could hide in hand-picked poinsettias. Holiday citrus from a backyard tree or other country could carry the citrus greening virus that could wipe out the citrus industry.

In 2001, the Asian tiger mosquito, a vector known to help transmit diseases like Zika, hitchhiked its way into the U.S. in shipments of ornamental “Lucky” bamboo plants from overseas.

In 2016, the County’s detector dog inspector teams sniffed out, intercepted and stopped 23 different invasive pests — including ficus thrips from Spain, Oriental fruit flies from Hawaii, apple maggots from New York and leafhoppers from Florida — just at U.S. Postal Service offices.

San Diego County continues to battle invasive pests like the goldspotted oak borer, the light brown apple moth, the South American palm weevil and the Asian Citrus psyllid that can carry citrus greening, to protect the local $1.75 billion agriculture industry.

So, as you’re heading into the holidays, here are a couple of handy guidelines to follow:

Don’t Pack a Pest

  • If you’re traveling — whether it’s out of state or out of the country — leave whatever you find on your trip right where you found it. Don’t bring home a keepsake clipping from Aunt Penny’s holiday wreath, or those bulbs you 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 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.

Remember, don’t pack a pest!


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