You may have heard that invasive plant pests and diseases are primarily introduced through commercial trade — that’s true. But once they are here, these destructive plant pests don’t move far on their own; they are mostly spread by Missourians, through everyday actions.

Are you helping invasive pests spread in Missouri or around our country?

You may have heard that invasive plant pests and diseases are primarily introduced through commercial trade — that’s true. But once they are here, these destructive plant pests don’t move far on their own; they are mostly spread by Missourians, through everyday actions.

When a person takes firewood from home to the campsite, mails a gift of homegrown fruits or plants, or order plants, seeds or fruit online — these actions could all contribute to the unintentional spread of any number of destructive plant pests. When people wonder if their individual actions really matter — the answer is yes.

Damaging pests like gypsy moth and thousand cankers disease of black walnut threaten the Cape Girardeau area and the entire state of Missouri. These pests can hide in firewood, tree limbs and branches; in the case of gypsy moth, as egg masses on any number of outdoor household articles such as wheelbarrows, lawn mowers and swing sets.

Fortunately, gypsy moths and thousand cankers disease of black walnut are not in Missouri. However, the Missouri Department of Agriculture needs everyone's help to keep it that way. That’s why it’s important for Missourians to learn more about these destructive plant pests, take responsibility for their actions, and help stop the spread of invasive species.

It only takes one person to move something they shouldn’t. For instance, experts know the emerald ash borer (EAB) beetle didn’t fly to Missouri on its own — it hitchhiked here as an uninvited guest. And now all of the state's urban, suburban and rural ash trees are at risk of attack by this devastating pest. The risks from EAB stretch well beyond Missouri's borders; today EAB infestations are in 30 states.

Invasive plant pests and diseases are a threat in almost every state. If they are allowed to enter and become established, these pests could devastate neighborhoods and public green spaces, and cause damage to native species of plants, forests, watersheds, lakes, rivers and water delivery systems. As it stands today, damage from invasive plant pests costs our nation about $40 billion annually.

To protect the state, the Missouri Department of Agriculture asks Missourians to join them in the battle against invasive plant pests and diseases. Please call or visit their web site: http://extension.missouri.edu/treepests/home.aspx . This April — Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month — the department urges Missourians to help stop the spread of these harmful pests.