Pest Management

Protecting Plants and Trees from Invasive Pests

Pests that originate outside of the United States but find their way here in cars, planes and boats have no natural predators to keep populations in check. These non-native, invasive pests can multiply virtually uncontrolled, wreaking havoc on plants that have no natural defense against these foreigners.


Experts believe that the best and least expensive method of managing and controlling invasive pests is to keep pests out of our ecosystem. This is such a herculean task that it requires multi-agency cooperation: from U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents inspecting international baggage and shipments at airports and border crossings, to state agriculture departments' inspection efforts, to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's plant inspection stations located at major international airports and seaports and at major crossings along the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canadian borders.


Although these agencies are effective at keeping most pests from ever entering the U.S., sometimes a pest sneaks through. When that happens, the focus shifts to controlling and reducing the pest's presence.


The goal of pest management for invasive species is to control the pest and ultimately to eliminate it. It's important to control invasive pests quickly because rapid reproduction means their numbers quickly increase, enabling them to spread swiftly to affect larger geographic areas.


The first step in pest management is determining where the pest is and if the number of pests is increasing to the level of an infestation. State departments of agriculture conduct surveys, trapping and tracking pests, to monitor pest populations. Sticky traps hung in trees and on plants are effective in measuring pest populations and are often the first step to determine the extent of the pest infestation. The trapped pests are then identified by scientists and an action plan is adopted when the numbers reach a threshold level, which usually varies with each pest.


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Last Modified: May 3, 2010