Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Four ways to keep unwanted holiday pests from spreading

Mike Louisell
Communications Office

One of the many ways WSDA supports the agricultural community and consumers becomes more obvious during the holiday season. This is when the staff of our Plant Services Program kick into high gear, inspecting licensed retail and wholesale nurseries at a record pace to keep up with demand while ensuring consumers and exporters get healthy wreaths, Christmas trees, and other holiday plants that are free of pests and disease.

We've wrapped up our inspections of Christmas trees bound for consumers in Mexico, Hawaii, China, Japan and U.S. military bases. Christmas trees sold in the U.S. don't require inspection by WSDA. Although we support export and domestic markets for plants and shrubs year-around, it's especially important this time of year because of the high demand for holiday-themed plants.

Consumers can help keep pests out
Consumers play a major role in keeping damaging pests from damaging plants. Our partners at the U.S. Department of Agriculture offer these tips to protect Washington's communities and environment from harmful pests and plant diseases.
  1. Ordering Online: Poinsettias and amaryllis make festive gifts, but be careful when ordering any plant online. To spread holiday cheer instead of invasive pests, only buy or order plants from reputable vendors that comply with federal quarantine restrictions. To be safe, ask the grower if they are aware of and abide by all USDA regulations for that particular plant.
  2. Trees, Wreaths and Greens: When buying your holiday tree, deck the halls with greens and holly, but be sure to buy them from trusted sources.  Established retailers make sure their suppliers follow federal quarantine restrictions that prevent invasive pests from hitchhiking on trees and decorations.
  3. Don't Move Firewood: For a safe and cozy yuletide fire, buy firewood where you plan to burn it.  If burning your own firewood, don’t move it off your property or you may spread invasive tree killers like the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle.  Instead, buy or responsibly gather firewood near the place you’ll burn it.  Or take certified, heat-treated firewood with you instead.
  4. International Travel: Traveling abroad for the holidays? Declare all agricultural items to customs officials upon your return or you may bring back more than memories.  In addition to fresh produce, declare all spices, grains and packaged foods, which could carry the destructive Khapra beetle.
Visit www.DontPackaPest.com, a website sponsored by USDA and several partner agencies, to learn what is safe to bring back, along with other valuable travel tips.