Insects Found In Valentine's Day Flowers
Posted on February 1, 2012
Many people probably don’t know but the U.S. Homeland Security have specialized agents with Customs and Border Protection going through every shipment of flowers sent to the Port of Atlanta, looking for invasive bugs and plant diseases.
Agents say some of the bugs could wipe out entire fields, and cost taxpayers millions of dollars to eradicate.
“If one insect gets it, it can have devastating effects to the economy,” said Paris Hawkins, chief supervisory agriculture specialist at the Port of Atlanta.
Customs and Border Protection statistics show more than 320 million flowers in the U.S. last Valentine’s season came from other countries. Most come from South America.
A Channel 2 Action News crew got to see first-hand the rigorous inspection agents do on the flowers before they’re sent to Metro Atlanta stores. Agents shake each flower to see if any bugs fall out. They also inspect each leaf for insects or plant diseases not common to the United States.
“When you have an invasive species that comes into the country, it doesn’t have a natural enemy here. So once they get here, they’ll just reproduce,” said Hawkins.
One of the bugs that fell from a shipment was so small, the news crew couldn’t see it until an agent put it under a microscope. A tiny worm found in a shipment of flowers from Costa Rica was much easier to spot.
Agents say once a bug or disease is found, the entire shipment is quarantined until the exact species and threat is identified.
“We are the front-line, we are the guardians of agriculture,” said Hawkins. “We want to find it here before it gets into the environment.”
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