A snail as big as your foot, an insect the size of chocolate sprinkles and a mold related to the one that caused the Irish potato famine are on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s list of the top pests that threaten America’s crops and forestland.
Some of the 15 are new, some we’ve been fighting for decades. To attack them, “a sea change” in how we interact with our environment is starting to take place, says Scott Pfister, who directs the pest management department at the USDA’s plant protection and quarantine division in College Park, Md.
To stop insects like the Asian Citrus Psyllid or the Light Brown Apple Moth, it may no longer be OK to pick apples or oranges from a backyard tree and drive them to a friend’s house if the fruit comes from a quarantine area. Bringing firewood from home might get you turned back at a campground entrance if you live where Asian Longhorn Beetles have taken up residence. Fear of Khapra beetles means if you carry rice from India across a U.S. border, you could pay a $1,000 fine.
“We need to get Americans to start thinking about how these pests are moving around the country,” Pfister says. “April’s the time of year when people start to go camping and hiking and work in their gardens, so it’s a very appropriate time to address this national problem.”