When hungry insects decide to travel to new areas, they can devastate crops and trees and upset native ecosystems. And we humans often inadvertently provide transportation for these hungry pests.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), invasive pests are a growing problem, costing the United States billions of dollars in losses. Invasive pests are insects or other organisms that have moved beyond their natural habitat into a new environment where they have no natural enemies to keep them in check. If they’re allowed to establish themselves, they can become a threat to native plant and animal species, water systems, and human health.
How Invasive Pests Spread
They’re small, quiet, and crafty enough to travel undetected by
- hitching a ride on our vehicles, clothing, and outdoor gear;
- hiding on plants or animals as we transport them from one environment to another;
- coming in on commercial shipments of food, plants, or just about anything else.
How To Help Prevent Invasive Pests from Spreading
- After camping or hiking, wash your outdoor gear carefully. That includes RVs, dirt bikes, lawn furniture, and tents. Insects (or their eggs) may even be hiding out on your tires and wheel wells. Remove seeds and other plant parts, too.
- Don’t transport fruits, vegetables, or plants out of quarantined areas unless they’re properly inspected. Be sure to declare these items when crossing customs.
- Invasive pests love to hide in firewood, so don’t move firewood from one place to another. Buy locally whenever possible.
- Buy only certified, pest-free nursery whenever possible. Buy plants from a reputable source and avoid using invasive plant species!
According to the USDA, the top invasive pests in the U.S. are:
- coconut rhinoceros beetle (damages a number of crops including coconut, date and oil palms)
- imported fire ant (damages plants, stings animals and humans)
- khapra beetle (destroys grains and seeds)
- Mediterranean fruit fly (infests fruit and vegetable crops)
- Asian citrus psylllid (once it infects a tree, there’s no cure)
- citrus greening disease (Huanglongbing) (ruins fruit and kills trees within a few years)
- European grapevine moth (damages grapes)
- sudden oak death (infects a variety of trees)
- Mexican fruit fly (infests fruit and vegetable crops)
- Oriental fruit fly (infests fruit and vegetable crops)
- giant African snail (carries a parasite that causes meningitis, consumes 500 types of plants, damages plaster and stucco)
- False codling moth (threatens fruits, vegetables, and other crops)
- light brown apple moth (damages garden foliage and produce)
- European and Asian gypsy moths (defoliates trees)
- emerald ash borer (no treatment ó trees must be felled)
- Asian longhorned beetle (threatens hardwood trees, and there’s no cure)
To learn which invasive pests are a threat in your state, visit the USDA’s hungrypests.com.