April is National Invasive Plant, Pest and Disease Awareness Month and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) urges residents to help stop the threat that invasive plant pests pose to the state’s agricultural and natural resources.
“While the term ‘invasive plants, pests and diseases’ may not be familiar to every Virginian, the effects of their presence in our state should be of concern to everyone,” said Matthew J. Lohr, VDACS Commissioner. “These organisms, such as the Gypsy Moth, Emerald Ash Borer, Asian Longhorn Beetle, Imported Fire Ants and Thousand Cankers Disease, wreak havoc on the environment, displace or destroy native plants and insects, severely damage crops and close foreign markets to U.S. products from infested areas. They cost industry and governments millions of dollars to control.”
Due to increased globalization and international travel, invasive pests often arrive in the country on cargo ships or with returning travelers. Once the invasive pests are here, they can grow and spread rapidly, often because they have no natural predators in this country.
There are several easy steps that people can take to help reduce the spread of invasive pests and plants:
•Don’t move firewood over long distances as it can be a carrier of invasive insects and diseases. Only use firewood that is from the area where it will be burned.
•Before leaving a work or recreational site, look for and clean any insects or seeds and other plant parts that might be attached to your equipment, boots, gear, truck bed, tires, and harvesting equipment to make sure you are not spreading invasive pests to a new location.
•Always declare any plant material brought in from travel abroad.
•Buy Local. Avoid using invasive plant species in your landscaping and gardening projects. A wide variety of beautiful native plants that thrive in your local environment are available at local nurseries and garden centers.
•Don’t plant seeds of invasive plants in wildlife food plots.
The sooner invasive species are detected, the easier and cheaper it is to control them. If you suspect you have an invasive pest in your area, contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension Service agent, USDA-APHIS and click on “Report a pest or disease,” or VDACS by calling 804.786.3515.