This Week in Quarantines


If this week’s coverage of nasty bugs and invasive plants has made you want to just lock the door and stay inside, you may be in luck. Garden quarantines are an increasingly common way to deal with pest and disease infestations.  Just consider:

The Plum Pox virus has moved into certain parts of Pennsylvania, prompting the USDA to go trampling around in backyards looking for signs of the pox, and leading the agency to ban the planting of any new trees in the Prunus genus (that includes cherries, plums, peaches, etc).

An infestation of the light brown apple moth has led to strict quarantines in much of the San Francisco Bay Area and all of Hawaii.  In additions to restrictions on shipping nursery plants out of the area, individual gardeners within 1.5 miles of a moth sighting are forbidden from allowing anything from their garden–a flower, a piece of fruit–to leave their property.

The emerald ash borer quarantine prohibits the sale of some nursery trees, and restricts the transportation of firewood, in parts of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and elsewhere.

Residents of Orem, Utah have been asked to stop growing fruits and vegetables for three years (!!) and to allow the spraying of two pesticides in their gardens to stop the spread of the Japanese beetle. Over half of Orem residents have signed up for the spraying.  The pesticides are Merit (imidacloprid), which is rated as a Category II Moderately Hazardous chemical by the World Health Organization, and is highly toxic to bees, according to its own product label.  The other chemical is Tempo, or cyfluthrin, which is also rated as "moderately hazardous" by the WHO and EPA, and which is also highly toxic to bees. Oh, and best of all, they both contaminate groundwater and kill invertebrates!   Awesome.  (And all this in spite of the USDA’s handbook on IPM approaches to Japanese beetle control.) 

At least one blogger is on the job, reporting from the community meetings about the situation. And fortunately, inmates at the county jail are going to plant produce to replace what the residents have lost. So why is it that this annual pesticide treatment will make it unsafe to grow vegetables, but perfectly safe to play on the lawn, let pets frolic in the garden, etc?  You people ask too many questions.

Thus concludes our This Week in Quarantines report.  Looking for a quarantine in your area?  The USDA’s probably got one just for you–check right here. 

Now–are you STILL in the mood to get out and garden this weekend?  Better get out there now, before the USDA draws a map around your garden.


  1. From the Honolulu Star Bulletin May 4 2007. “The light brown apple moth has appeared in the islands but hasn’t been a significant pest in Hawaii since it was first detected in the islands in 1896, state officials said.

    In fact, the moth may be considered a biocontrol agent for serious invasive weeds, such as blackberry and gorse, they said.”

    The number of invasive plant, insect and small animal species I have personally seen arrive and become established in Hawaii in the last 20 years is a very long list. Every thing practically is imported to Hawaii. Agricultural products are not the only source of introductions.

    I have seen ceramic tile from Turkey full of huge spiders and tile from Mexico full of scorpians. The simple fact of the matter is with global free trade and transportation this is not going to stop.

    Hawaii’s plant, produce and flower exporters are already under very strict sanitation and inspection rules. This newest moth hissy fit northern California is having shouldn’t change much for Hawaii. Just another bug to be sure is not there.

    We always hear about agricultural products when things like this happen. No one ever mentions the millions of containers being shipped world wide of cargo, individuals personal household belongings and cars as they move from place to place. Have any Australians, Hawaiians or disenchanted Californians recently moved to the Bay area and shipped a container of their stuff there?

    My truck is currently on the high seas headed to Seattle. I washed the sucker. Cleanest it has been in years, but those Day Geckos sure did like to hang out on my truck and I can’t tell you how many mornings there was a spider web across the open window of the driver side door.

    Look out mainland here I come. I promise not to bring any fruits, flowers or plants that might have pests on them.

  2. Here in Nova Scotia, the plant inspectorazis at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency decreed a few years ago that wood from trees from a certain part of Halifax couldn’t be used for lumber, etc–a quarentine was put in place to prevent the spread of the brown spruce longhorn beetle. But they also wanted to cut down all sorts of trees to help curb the spread of this beetle. This caused a lot of heartache and difficulties for a number of woodlot owners, etc–and this week the CFIA decided that they weren’t able to control the spread of the beetle at all. Duh….to my mind it was like telling people they could pee in one end of the pool and it would stay just there. THe mind boggles.

  3. Brooklyn is the epicenter of the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) epidemic. The NYC Parks Department has jurisdiction on the ground here, working in concert with USDA and other agencies. Parks has a multiple strategy: public education, quarantine and special handling for woody refuse, and destruction of infected trees, whether on public or private lands. This has been largely successful, but the invasion of Staten Island by beetles arriving from a quarantined county in new Jersey reminds us that no city is an island.

    I’m also keeping my eye on emerging threats: Lily leaf beetle from New England, Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), and a new stinkbug from the Mid-Atlantic region.

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