Help stop the spread of invasive species

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RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Area residents are being encouraged to join the effort to stop the threat of invasive species and pests in Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says non-native, destructive insects, diseases and harmful weeds pose a threat to crops and forests in the Commonwealth, which can have impacts on the economy, the environment and even human health.

With April being National Invasive Plant, pest and Disease Awareness Month, VDACS wants to raise awareness of the threat these species post to natural and agricultural resources.

Invasive species include the Asian longhorned beetle, the emerald ash borer, the gypsy moth, the imported fire ant, boxwood blight, the giant hogweed and many others.

Such invasive species can wreak havoc on the local environment by displacing or destroying native plants and insects, damaging crops, and potentially closing foreign markets to products that originate in affected areas.

VDACS says once an invasive species becomes established in an area, it can grow and spread rapidly due to a lack of natural predators or immunity in the environment.

They also cost millions of dollars to control, so taking step to prevent their introduction is the most effective way to reduce the risk of infestation and the cost to control them.

VDACS says there are several ways people can help reduce the risk of spreading invasive species.

First, do not move firewood over long distances as it can carry invasive species. Instead, gather or purchase wood local to the area where it will be burned.

Second, people should look for and remove any insects, seeds and other plant parts that might have become attached to clothing, equipment, shoes and vehicles before leaving a work or recreational site.

Third, people can consult with a local nursery or master gardener to pick plants that are not invasive for landscaping purposes and gardening projects.

Fourth, do not plant the seeds of an invasive plant species in wildlife food plots.

Finally, any plant materials brought into the United States should always be declared when returning for international travel.

Anyone who suspects an invasive species is in their area should contact the VDACS's Office of Plant Industry Services at (804) 786-3515, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services at (804) 226-5262, or their local Virginia Cooperative Extension office. Click the link in the Related Links box for contact information for those offices.

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