The majority of cut flowers for sell in North America are flown in from Colombia, Ecuador, Holland & New Zealand. Miami handles the large majority of these imports, California is 2nd. Last week alone nearly 3.5 million flowers arrived in Los Angles, in total an estimated 40 million flowers will enter the USA destined for Mothers Day.
However, sometimes the flowers do not arrive alone! Despite all of the careful planning and inspecting; bugs can & do take a ride with the flowers. Bug infested blooms are not what Mom wants for Mothers Day!
This is where US Customs and Border Protection enters the scene. All it takes is one new bug that isn’t from here to wreak havoc in the agricultural sector. 40 million blooms, that’s a lot of flowers to pick through! Using magnifying glasses & tweezers a group of agricultural specialists from the CBP spend their days searching for signs of disease, mites, thrips, miner flies and other critters that may have “hitched” a ride.
CBP agent, Yann Cheng said “Sometimes we don’t find anything, but finding something new to us is pretty exciting”. Personally, I just can’t imagine being excited by a bug! To do his job Cheng picks up one rose bouquet at a time and gives it a vigorous shake & tap over a white table; loose leaves and remnants fall onto the table while he grabs his tweezers and collects a mite that landed with them. The insect is then placed into an alcohol filled glass vile and is examined to determine if it is already established in the USA or if it’s a new species. If it’s new the entire shipment of flowers is either destroyed, sent back or treated with chemical pesticides.
Here’s a great video on the process: http://bcove.me/7vu9q7of