Bug Blog

Insects that Feast on Plants are Costing us Billions

Insects that Feast on Plants are Costing us Billions

There is a hungry threat to the vegetation of this country, invasive insects. During the summer, swarms of insects attack gardens, agriculture and the environment costing the U.S. almost $120 billion each year in damages, according to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). While the United States works hard to get a handle on this problem, they are a “serious threat to our economy,” says AHIS spokeswoman Abbey Powell.

Within the last few years, the nation’s orange industry has taken over a $4 billion hit, due to a spreading incurable disease. The disease is referred to as huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening. The effects of this disease are causing oranges to be too bitter for juice and too misshapen for fruit. Farmers are arming themselves with sprays, tents and steam treatments to help calm the storm. If the USDA cannot get a handle on the disease we may not be seeing breakfast juice and fruit trees in our yard moving into the future.

Currently, the other possible solution, which is undergoing some controversy, is genetically modifying the fruit in order to make them more durable against pests and disease. The short-term solution is to crossbreed oranges while the long-term solution is GMOs. Unfortunately it will take 4 years to see if these approaches are measurable.

Produce isn’t the only thing being affected by these insects either; they are also attacking forests and trees around the country. The Asian longhorn beetle is one of the biggest threats and is currently under federal quarantine.

In Hawaii and California the light brown apple moth is known to damage avocadoes, grapes, raspberries and thousands of plants and trees, the USDA-APHIS reports.

We can help with the problem though officials say! They offer tips such as “not moving firewood, not bringing plants or produce across state lines, declaring agriculture items at customs and washing the soil off tired and outdoor gear before and after trips.” Are you using any of these tips?