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AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – With summer just around the corner, many people will be gearing up to make travel plans. Unfortunately, people are not the only ones on the move this summer. Spring and summer are critical times when damaging invasive species emerge and are easily spread.

Invasive Species

Invasive species include plants, animals and insects. Marla Faver, an Alabama Extension regional agent and plant diagnostician, said these species can have a negative effect in a new environment.

“Species introduced into a new environment often have negative impacts to the ecosystem,” Faver said.

According to the USDA, invasive species cost the United States about $40 billion each year in damages and control efforts.

Spread and Control

“Invasive species are spread primarily by humans,” Faver said. “Transportation of these species can be both intentional and unintentional.”

In addition to human movement, some common ways that these species are spread are:

  • as unsuccessful attempts to control other invasive species
  • escaped imported animals and plants
  • international and interstate transportation
  • highways, canals and rivers

Prevention

The USDA offers the following tips on preventing introducing invasive species into a new environment.

  • When moving to a new home – Check patio furniture, grills, bikes and other outdoor items for insect eggs before moving them.
  • When traveling – Before doing an out-of-state trip, make sure your car, RV or other outdoor vehicle is cleaned first. Check any hard-to-see areas to make sure they are free of soil, egg masses, and insects. When traveling internationally, be aware of retuning with unusual plants, souvenirs made from plants or wood or even a piece of fruit. U.S. laws prohibit many of these items from entering the country because they could harbor an invasive pest.
  • When mailing homegrown plants, fruits and vegetables. Be aware when mailing anything from home gardens. If you live in an area quarantined for a specific pest, don’t mail produce or plants from your garden to others.
  • When moving untreated firewood. Some invasive pests burrow inside wood to lay their eggs. Don’t take untreated firewood with you on outdoor outings. Instead, buy certified, heat-treated firewood or responsibly gather wood at your destination.
  • When buying plants for your garden. When buying garden items, ask the retailer if they comply with federal and state quarantine restrictions. Before buying plants online, check if the seller is in the U.S. If they are in another country, you might need import documents to bring the items into the U.S.

Plant Diagnostic Labs

There are three plant diagnostic labs throughout the state, located in Auburn, Birmingham and Gulf Shores. These labs offer services related to plant, soil and insect samples. Samples are examined and control recommendations are provided based on the findings. For more information on cost and services provided, visit Alabama Extension online or contact you county Extension office. The Auburn Plant Diagnostic Lab in Gulf Shores is the newest lab. Find more about the Gulf Shores Lab here.

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