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!
Mealybugs are sap sucking insects that feed on a wide range of plants. They are a large and diverse groups of insects, closely related to scale insects and aphids. Many species are pests of horticultural crops and ornamental plants. Their name is derived from the mealy secretion of waxy filaments they produce as a protective barrier. They feed by inserting their mouthparts directly into the plant, sucking up nutrients from the sap.
Mealybugs can rapidly build up in large numbers causing debilitation of the plant. They also produce large quantities of a sticky secretion called ‘honeydew’. This often allows the growth of unsightly fungi leading to a black coating called ‘sooty mould’.
Lymantria dispar (Linnaeus)
The gypsy moth, was accidentally introduced into Massachusetts in l869. By 1902 this pest was widespread in the New England states, eastern New York, and regions of New Jersey. The gypsy moth was first detected in Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties in northeastern Pennsylvania in l932. Pennsylvania’s infestation progressed south and westward following the mountain ridges. During the late 1970s and early l980s the leading edge of the infestation advanced into Centre, Blair, Huntingdon and Clearfield Counties. Heavy defoliation (Image 1) and subsequent tree mortality has occurred along mountain ridges in forests comprised primarily of oak. It is the most important insect pest of forest and shade trees in the eastern United States.
Whiteflies are tiny, sap-sucking insects that may become abundant in vegetable and ornamental plantings, especially during warm weather. They excrete sticky honeydew and cause yellowing or death of leaves. Outbreaks often occur when the natural biological control is disrupted. Management is difficult once populations are high.