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How to stop insect invaders; here's what travelers can do to help.

While air-chopping helicopters spraying Mediterranean fruit flies became a familiar sight again last winter and spring over Los Angeles, home gardeners there were discovering clouds of ash whiteflies and dying eucalyptus trees, with trunks studded with borer larvae. These "new" insects are among several bad guys that arrived recently from foreign lands, established a foothold, then began to damage California plants. How did the insects get here? In shipments of natural materials from abroad. In travelers' suitcases. By mail, from well-meaning friends. For many Westerners, the last several years have served as a crash course in ecology: innocuous insect arrives-from Australia, Hawaii, Israel, Mexico, the Philippines; with no parasite or predator, its population explodes. Gardeners and farmers scurry to limit the pest's spread so it doesn't become established. That is the story of the eucalyptus borer, eugenia psyllid, ash whitefly, and the notorious Mediterranean fruit fly. Many more insects from around the world could survive here and create problems. Over just seven days last August at San Francisco International Airport, inspectors found 40 economically serious pests carried by travelers. Pests included Mediterranean, melon, and Mexican fruit flies; various aphids, scale, and whiteflies; and the citrus canker. (Over the past 10 years, some 20 million citrus trees in Florida have been destroyed in order to limit citrus canker; this bacterial disease could hitch a ride on your shoes, from a Florida orchard to California or Arizona.) If you're traveling, do not transport uninspected fruits and plants; remind friends elsewhere to check all the rules before sending any organic materials to you. To the degree that we cooperate with quarantines-at post offices and airports-the West will suffer fewer exotic pests. Also, you can be fined $250 to $ 1,000 for sending vegetation or meat through the mail. If you want to bring plants home, check with the USDA's Plant Protection and Quarantine division first. It will give you the details of how to safely and legally import plants. Write or call Permit Unit, Federal Building, Room 632, 6505 Belcrest Rd., Hyattsville, Md. 20782; (301) 436-8645.
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Date:Dec 1, 1990
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