Deadly Insect Hitch-Hiking Season Is Here

Published: Monday, April 9, 2018 - 10:04am
Updated: Monday, April 9, 2018 - 12:59pm
(Photo by Brian McGrew - Arizona Department of Agriculture)
Asian citrus psyllid.

With the weather warming up, the feds are warning to be on the look-out for dangerous hitch-hikers.

They are a particular predatory type sometimes found hiding in our own backyard, all the while their notorious mugshots are plainly posted on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) website: HungryPest.com.

That's where the USDA lists 20 of the worst offenders, including the Asian citrus psyllid, a tiny gnat-sized insect that quietly invaded the nation's crops and continues to turn sweet oranges, zesty limes, and other citrus into bitter, misshapen waste.

April is Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness month, when the USDA reminds everyone that it only takes one person to spread pest diseases.

"It's during April when many of the pests and diseases start to emerge throughout the United States," said USDA spokesperson Samantha Simon. Left unchecked, she said "they begin to destroy our nation's forests, crops and landscapes."

Arizona is not immune. The Asian citrus psyllid is just one among several invasive pests impacting plant life in the desert.

As the warmer weather reboots, Simon said they can track the freeloading bugs' favorite transportation to imported plant clippings, uncleaned camping gear, and vacation luggage.

That may not seem like much of threat until you consider that, "Hungry pests alone cost our nation $40-billion each year in damages and in the expensive eradication and control efforts," said Simon.

It's why the department has asked all travelers to declare any agriculture when asked at customs. In many cases, the plants simply need inspection for to be cleared to enter.

The department has a full list the insects, regions of infestation, and the symptoms to look for on its HungryPest.com website.

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