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Gardening Articles: Care :: Pests & Problems

Hitchhiking Garden Pests (page 3 of 3)

by Howard Waterworth

Protection From Alien Invasion

Our first line of defense is composed of the 1,800 inspectors of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), stationed at international airports, seaports, border stations, and some post offices. Well trained to spot potential problems, the inspectors also rely on both high- and low-tech methods. They use X-ray machines to scan passenger baggage and mail for agricultural materials, and they also employ the "beagle brigade."

The USDA's beagle brigade consists of 62 canine teams at most major international airports. (These are friendly beagles, by the way, not the intimidating Doberman pinschers and German shepherds used to snare drug smugglers.) Perhaps you've met Taffy at the Los Angeles International Airport, or Abbott in Miami? If Taffy sniffs your baggage as you walk towards U.S. Customs and promptly assumes a "sit" position, her handler will ask you to open your bags. Inspectors will confiscate and destroy any contraband food: a Guatemalan mango or Peruvian fig, for instance. You could be fined up to $250, especially if you tried to hide your contraband. Nationally, APHIS fines some 3,000 international air passengers each month.

When arriving from another country, you must declare any meats, fruits, vegetables, plants, animals, or plant or animal products you have with you. Be forthright to avoid the fine, not to mention to avoid being the villain behind some new pest plague.

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