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Valentine's flowers bring pest threats

Feb. 4, 2011 at 1:19 PM   |   Comments

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MIAMI, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- U.S. Customs and Border Protection agricultural agents in Miami are on the lookout for pests in Valentine's Day flower imports, the agency says.

Flowers and ornamental plants are arriving in huge amounts at Miami International Airport, which handles more foreign flower imports that any other airport in the United States, The Miami Herald reported Friday.

The rush of imports from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14 increases the chances that potentially destructive insects are hiding among the flora from grower countries like Colombia, Ecuador, Thailand and Holland.

Rolando Suliveras, Customs' port director at MIA, said the agency last year checked 320.8 million stems nationwide, and expects to break that record this year.

"Pests could cause major economic impact" by attacking fruit, vegetables, ornamental plants and sensitive ecosystems like the Everglades, Suliveras said during an airport news conference while displaying dead non-native flies, beetles, weevils and snails found in imports.

Agents find 60 pests on an average day, most of which would "freeze and die" elsewhere but in tropical Miami could make their way to native vegetation and wreak havoc, Suliveras said.

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