Valentine's Day Flowers Inspected for Pests
Monday, February 6, 2012

HOUSTON, TX - Flower shops are gearing up for the Valentine's Day holiday by purchasing thousands of roses from outside the country . As the shipments make it to Houston, before it can go to the flower shop agricultural specialists with U.S. Customs and Border Protection must hand inspection each shipment.

"We are looking for pests and insects, diseases that could potentially harm our American agriculture," agriculture specialist Jennifer Murrell said.

The main source of imported flowers comes from Columbia and Ecuador. The agents hand-select each batch making sure in transit nothing was picked up.

"We do inspect 2 percent of every shipment looking for anything that is infected," said Murrell.

Each bundle of flowers is visually inspected and then the agent shakes the flowers on to white paper. Anything that falls out is screened. But if there is evidence of disease or a flower has bite marks on it, that's not enough.

"We can't take action unless we actually find the insect that causes that damage," said Murrell.

During the 2011 Valentine's Day season from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14, Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists prevented the entry of 3,400 plant pests hitchhiking on cut flower imports.

Customs and Border Protection processed approximately 802.5 million cut flower stems last year.

The top 10 ports of entry, by volume, of cut flower imports processed are Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Laredo, Texas, Otay Measa, Chicago, Newark, Boston, Wilmington and San Juan.