Detector Dog Team Uncovers Illegal Plant Shipping Operation

Plants shipped via U.S. Mail

During routine inspections of plants shipped via U.S. Mail, AWM’s Detector Dog Team discovered a hidden avenue by which citrus trees were being sent illegally from Florida to California. While the invoice stated that the citrus trees came from Ohio, evidence was discovered indicating that the shipment originated in Florida. The case was referred to the United States Department of Agriculture, who found that at least 71 other illegal citrus shipments had been made to California. The Ohio shipper has been prevented from selling Florida citrus trees via the internet in the future and will likely pay large fines for putting California citrus at risk. Citrus trees from Florida cannot be sent to California due to possible infection with the bacterial disease Huanglongbing (HLB) or for possibly carrying Asian citrus psyllid, the insect pest that carries the disease. HLB is considered the most damaging citrus disease in the world, and it has the potential to destroy California’s citrus industry. HLB symptoms include blotchy, yellow leaves, yellow shoots on random branches, and small, lop-sided fruit which remain green and are bitter tasting.  Infected trees die within a few years.  Control measures include destruction of infested trees.  In Florida, over 6,000 jobs have been lost in the past five years due to HLB, with production costs rising by 40%. For more information please contact Jim Wynn at 760-752-4710 or james.wynn@sdcounty.ca.gov