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Tips for Dealing with Invasive Pests

Critters in the garden range from beneficial to invasive.  Some actually are listed by the US Department of Agriculture as invasive pests that need to be controlled.  See my tips for dealing with these unwanted bugs.

This post was sponsored on behalf of the United States Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The opinions and text are all mine.  

Collages with tips for fighting invasive pasts.

Photo Credit: Hungry Pests

Anyone who spends time in the garden knows how disheartening it can be when invasive pests decide to find their home in your beautiful flowers, trees and vegetables. 

Not only can they make a mess of your garden, this type of insect can devastate entire agricultural industries, and can be responsible for the elimination of jobs. Because of this, invasive pests can threaten our food supplies and cost the country billions of dollars.

It is not an uncommon mistake with new vegetable gardeners to forget to inspect for pests.

So arm yourself with some of these tips for dealing with invasive pests.

Many of the items that we take for granted – food on our table, flowers in our garden and trees that provide us shade are at risk of being destroyed by invasive pests. Dealing with invasive pests can start at the time of purchase.

For instance, have you given much thought to where you actually purchase your plants and seeds? It is so important to buy from a reputable source that complies with federal quarantine restrictions.

Companies who follow these restrictions really help to keep the invasive pests from even entering the country in the first place.  

Also what about when you are traveling?  Airlines have a rule about bringing in plant material when you return to the US from an International trip for a good reason.

Bringing in plants that you love the look of on your recent trip can be just the thing that one of these invasive pests needs to start breeding here in the US.

Invasive pests can put many things we take for granted at risk such as our gardens, trees and shrubs.

Dealing with Invasive Pests

I have been recently asked by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to spread the word about the top invasive pests in the USA.

They have identified 19 invasive pest species that are a particular threat here in the USA for our agricultural crops, plants and trees.  These pests often come into the country by way of commercial trade. However, we can’t just blame the vendors, because once the pests are here, the average person does many things to help increase their spread without being aware of this.

Something as simple as the way we pack and move from one area of the country to another can help.  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a wonderful website, called Hungry Pests (very appropriate name, I think!)

The site talks about the pests in detail, tells which plants and trees they affect, and has images of all of the insects. It also shows which insects may be a problem in your area of the country.

19 Most Invasive Hungry Pests:19 Invasive Hungry Pests that are a threat to our gardens.

  1. Asian Citrus Psyllid
  2. Citrus Greening
  3. Asian Longhorned Beetle
  4. Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle
  5. Asian Gypsy Moth
  6. European Grapevine Moth
  7. False Codling Moth
  8. Giant African Snail
  9. Khapra Beetle
  10. Light Brown Apple Moth
  11. Mediterranean Fruit Fly
  12. Mexican Fruit Fly
  13. Old World Bollworm
  14. Oriental Fruit Fly
  15. Spotted Lanternfly
  16. Sudden Oak Death

Also, invasive are these three that are most problematic in North Carolina

Hungry Pests Under Federal Quarantine in N.C..

Photo credits: Emerald Ash Borer, (David Cappaert, Michigan State University, European Gypsy Moth, (John H. Ghent, USDA Forest Service, Imported Fire Ant (USDA Aphis PPQ Archive,  Images may be subject to copyright.

  1. Emerald Ash Borer
  2. European Gypsy Moth
  3. Imported Fire Ant

If you look through this list, and feel safe because you don’t have these insects in your garden, think again.  Out of the 50 states in the US, all but 10 of them have at least 1 of these invasive pests under Federal Quarantine.

Here in NC alone, we have three:  the Emerald Ash Borer, the European Gypsy Moth and the Imported Fire Ant.  (I have had experience with the latter and it was NOT FUN!!)

There are also an additional 10 invasive pests which can survive here in N.C. year round due to crop, forest, or even urban areas that can provide a suitable habitat for them.

To see which pests are a problem in your state, please visit this page of the Hungry Pests Website.

Tips for Helping to Stop the Spread of Invasive Pests.

Now that we know about this problem, we cannot sit back and think that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will fix the problem for us on their own.  The problem is just too large.  

It is up to all of us to help stop the spread by following a few simple tips.

For Gardeners.  Be on the alert!

Invasive pests can really do some damage in your vegetable garden.Lambs ear and garden tools

Always declare plant material brought in from travel outside the USA. (or better yet, don’t even consider bringing it in!) 

Steer clear of invasive plant species when you purchase plants for your garden.

Buy your plants from a reputable source that adheres to USDA federal quarantine restrictions.

Be careful where you store potting supplies.  This area of my garden has to be cleaned out often and very carefully.  The fire ants love this spot!This pile of pots is the perfect spot for some fire ants

Remove any invasive plants you may find in your garden and don’t share them with friends.

Look for D shaped and round holes in trees. These could be evidence of emerald Ash borers or Asian long horned beetles.

Before you haul away trees and yard debris, check with your local USDA office to find out how to dispose of these items.

For Campers and Outdoor Enthusiasts. Use common sense outdoors!

If you are in an infested area, be sure to clean your boots, camping gear and even your pets before leaving the area.Inspect your pets before leaving a camping area for invasive pests

Don’t move firewood from one area to another. 

Report any invasive pest sightings to the local USDA office.

Moving a camper that has been sitting for a while can also move invasive pests around the country, so be thorough when you clean it before using.This camper with tires and shrubs is a perfect spot for invasive pests.

Do your part to prevent the spread of invasive pests.

If you live in the Northeast, remove gypsy moth eggs and kill them by placing them in soapy water. These moths can eat more than 300 species of shrubs and trees and you need to be on the alert for their presence.

Don’t move citrus or citrus plants and be careful of moving floral arrangements that contain citrus. Don’t bring in fruits from other states.

Moving them could spread a disease called Citrus Greening.Be careful of moving citrus from one area of the country to another

Invasive pests move easily to other locations. Be particularly careful of moving homegrown fruits and vegetables, and plants, firewood and outdoor items from one area to another.

Wood packaging such as pallets can be a host to invasive pests, so inspect them carefully.

Be sure lawn furniture and other outdoor items are carefully inspected before moving them to another area. Who knows what might be lurking here?Moving garden refuse can also move invasive pests

Know what is a threat in your area of the country and be on a look out for these pests.  If they are found, report to your local USDA.

For Homemakers – Tips for keeping pests out of the house

Having invasive pests in your home can be a real issue.  Dealing with bugs outside is easier since you don’t have to worry so much about food, kids and pets as long as you are careful.  If you find your self with an infestation indoors, it’s another story.

Be sure to read my article for keeping ants out of the house for some helpful tips.

It is not just gardeners who need to worry about spreading invasive pests.  Birdwatchers, hunters, farmers, loggers and commercial companies all must do their part to contain the spread of these harmful insects.

For more gardening ideas, please visit my Pinterest Gardening Inspiration Board.

Finally, be sure to rotate your crops. Crop rotation can be a big help in preventing many pests and disease.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."