CBP Keeping Track of Invasive Pests
WESLACO – Federal inspectors will continue to examine all plants coming from Mexico as the holiday weekend approaches.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said plants, including flowers may carry insect and other microorganisms that can cause great damage to local agriculture and businesses.
Billy Darling said his Sago Palms crops were damaged due to a disease spreading around the Rio Grande Valley.
“If your Sago starts turning brown – you look and it’s got a lot of white dots on it, that’s what it is,” he said.
CBP said pests are the reason why they limit what kinds of flowers cross into the U.S. from Mexico.
“A lot of these flowers grown are in nurseries. Nurseries harbor insects and so you never know what they can be carrying,” Texas A&M AgriLife Extension agent Danielle Sekula said in regards to these nuisances. “They’re generally very small, and when you’re dealing with microorganisms you might not even see it at all.”
Darling said he doesn’t know where the Sago Palm pest came from exactly, but it was enough to affect his business.
“We just sold what we had and quit,” he said.
He said he sold off at least 50 of his nurseries, costing him thousands in loss.
CBP said it takes specially trained U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors to screen for them. The agency is asking people to visit their website to learn exactly which flowers are allowed and which pose a hidden risk.
“Maybe a bouquet of roses and they could have some kind of aphid on there that we’ve never health before, and it could get started as easily as that,” Darling said.
Sekula said the Valley usually gets a new invasive pest about every five years. She said they can be difficult, if not impossible to eradicate.
CBP said common flowers that are prohibited include Gladiolas, Chrysanthemums and Orange Jasmine. Floral fillers are also prohibited.