Public Education Initiative

USDA Seeks the Public’s Help to Stop Invasive, ‘Hungry Pests’

Three, New Invasive Species Recently Found in the United States

WASHINGTON D.C., April. 2, 2015


April is Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is asking the public to help prevent the spread of invasive pests, which cost our nation an estimated $120 billion each year in damages to our environment, agriculture and native species. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has identified 18 “Hungry Pests” as some of the most destructive invasive species that people can unknowingly spread in the things they move, pack and bring home from vacations.   


“We can all play a role in stopping the spread of invasive pests during the course of our regular activities, from enjoying the outdoors to traveling to internet shopping,” said Osama El Lissy, deputy administrator of APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine program. “USDA-APHIS remains vigilant in safeguarding our nation from invasive species abroad, at our borders and across the country, but it’s critical that each of us does his or her part to prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive species in a new area.”


Hungry Pests attack plants, crops and trees and can wipe out entire species, from citrus trees (including oranges, lemons and grapefruits) to ash trees (used to make furniture, flooring and baseball bats). Because they have no natural enemies here, invasive species can spread unchecked by nature. This month, USDA-APHIS is adding three new insects that the public is asked to help stop: the coconut rhinoceros beetle, old world bollworm and spotted lanternfly.


The coconut rhinoceros beetle – which, like its name, looks like a miniature rhinoceros – is destroying many species of palm trees, including date, oil and the iconic coconut palm of Hawaii. The beetle uses its horn to bore into the palm crowns to feed on sap, which exposes the palm to disease. The old world bollworm is a serious threat to agriculture and could disrupt commercial production of many major commodities, including corn, cotton, small grains, soybeans, peppers and tomatoes. The spotted lanternfly destroys a wide range of fruits and hardwood trees, and could greatly impair the nation’s grape, orchard and logging industries.


Every day, USDA-APHIS and its partners work hard to keep invasive pests and diseases out of the United States and control those that may slip in. USDA-APHIS asks everyone to join this effort to help keep Hungry Pests from spreading through a few simple actions:


  • Don’t move firewood; instead, buy firewood where you plan to burn it.
  • Buy plants, including ones online, from reputable sources.
  • Don’t bring or mail fresh produce or plants out of one state or into another.
  • Declare plants and produce to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials when returning from international travel.
  • Don’t move plants or produce outside quarantined areas.
  • Wash dirt from outdoor gear and tires before going to or returning from fishing, hunting or camping trips.
  • Clean lawn furniture and other outdoor items before moving them to a new location.
  • Report signs of invasive pests at


USDA-APHIS is also introducing a new curriculum, “Hungry Pests Invade Middle School,” to encourage students across the country to learn more about invasive pests. The goal is to educate young people about how invasive pests got here, the damage they cause and ways to keep them from spreading. Teachers may access the national, standards-based curriculum free of charge.


To learn more, go to or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter. The website includes photos and descriptions of the 18 Hungry Pests, an online tracker of federal quarantines by state and phone numbers to report signs of an invasive pest.



The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is a multifaceted federal agency with a broad mission area that includes protecting and promoting U.S. agricultural health, regulating genetically engineered organisms, administering the Animal Welfare Act and carrying out wildlife damage management activities. These efforts support the overall mission of USDA, which is to protect and promote food, agriculture, natural resources and related issues. To learn more about APHIS, visit