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Travel Tips: Celebrating America

June 29, 2012

Next Wednesday, America joins together in honor and celebration of our country’s history, traditions, and independence. Family BBQs, fireworks, and fun in the sun tend to go hand-in-hand with this special day.

Another common tradition for this holiday is travel. If you are traveling to visit family or friends, please remember to not pack a pest. Be sure to leave all agricultural items behind because they may be harboring species which are non-native to your destination. Non-native species become invasive and harmful to the native plants and animals when they use up resources needed by native species, hindering native populations. You can avoid introducing these potentially invasive species by taking a few simple precautions:

  1. Don’t move firewood – If you are planning on having a bonfire or BBQ, purchase local wood at the location which you plan to burn it. Organisms may be living on the wood that you purchase to burn. If you take that wood home with you, you may potentially release non-native organisms into a new environment. An example of the potential impacts in this particular situation is the millions of ash trees that have been lost due to the emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive (non-native) insect pest that bores into the inner bark of ash trees. This disrupts the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients, eventually leading to tree death. The spread of invasive species like EAB can be avoided by not moving firewood.
  2. Rinse off shoes – This may sound strange, but your shoes pick up soil and other organic matter with every step you take. Unfortunately, there may be a few hitchhikers along for the ride as well. Whether you traveled to the beach, the mountains, or grandma’s house in Kansas, simply rinse off your flops and sneakers before bringing them back home. This simple step can prevent the establishment of invasive pests in your backyard.
  3. Leave agricultural souvenirs behind – Rather than bringing the family a hibiscus back from Hawaii, pick them up a nice coffee cup instead. It is too risky to transport plants, fruit, veggies, and other agricultural items from one state to another – not to mention illegal. Here is a list of what not to pack when traveling state-to-state and internationally.    

And don’t forget about the kiddos! Make sure they know not to bring agricultural items home as well. Linus, our fearless detector dog, can help explain our Don’t Pack a Pest program and how everyone can help safeguard America’s agricultural and natural resources. Here is a great activity for the kids: locate and identify these invaders of Florida agriculture. They can use our website to identify and learn about each of the pests found on our ‘Stop the Invaders’ display.

Check out the Top 10 Traveler’s Tips from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and this handy traveler’s checklist before you head out on your trip. 

Enjoy your 4th of July travels and festivities. And remember, don’t pack a pest!

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