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By Gig Conaughton, County of San Diego Communications Office

December 10, 2018 (San Diego) - It could be mealy bugs in that homemade fruit basket, gypsy moth eggs hidden in the wreath you got from grandma’s house, whiteflies in those hand-picked poinsettias, or a dangerous plant virus in citrus picked from the backyard.

Nobody wants to give—or get—a gift like that. They’re not only going to gross somebody out, they could also wreak havoc on San Diego County’s $1.77 billion agricultural industry.

So, remember this holiday season: don’t pack a pest.

The holidays are all about traveling, sending and exchanging gifts. And if you’re not careful you could accidentally pack a hitchhiking, invasive pest into your luggage or into a homemade gift.

San Diego County’s Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures (AWM) works every year to keep out invasive pests like the goldspotted oak borer, light brown apple moth, Asian citrus psyllid and South American palm weevil and stop them from harming local growers and the environment.

This year, through Nov. 30, AWM’s High Risk Import Program has intercepted 170 agriculturally dangerous pests. And AWM’s detector dog teams have sniffed out and intercepted 52 pests hitchhiking in on shipments through the US. Postal Service. Twenty-seven of those pests—including magnolia white scale, fig wax scale, lesser snow scale (scales are tiny parasites that attach themselves to plants), and Pacific mealybug – can all harm our local agriculture industry.

So, as you’re heading into the holiday travel and gift-giving season, here are some 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!

For more information about dangerous insects, plant diseases, and Agriculture, Weights and Measures—and everyone’s—role in protecting our local environment and agriculture, visit AWM’s Insect and Plant Disease Information webpage.

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