This valentine season you should be careful about those beautiful flowers your loved one gives you. Every year between January 1st and February 14th border agents inspect over 350 million fresh cut flower stems. Many of the flowers are imported from South America and have many pests that we are not accustomed to here is the U.S. These flowers have lots of small pests that get a ride from the fields to your home.
Agricultural agents inspect the flowers before they are sent out to stores to purchase. They shake the flowers and see what falls off onto white paper. The smallest little speck can mean trouble for the entire batch of shipments from that area. It starts with these little critters getting past an agent and making its way to your home which is bad enough. It also can make its way into the ecosystem and cause a lot of trouble for local farmers.
Some of the flowers show signs of disease which can be bad news for farmers and other gardeners. If disease is found it will be flagged and not sent out to stores. They can do some work to get the bugs to vacate the flowers and kill them off, before releasing them to the stores. More the 20% of all the flowers that are sent to the U.S. are flagged because of some type of bug or disease.
During an average day, customs agents inspect around 16.4 million flower stems for signs of disease and bugs but during the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day they are looking at more than 378 million stems. Many of these are the quintessential red roses that are so often bought for this holiday of love. This is a hard task for the agents responsible and they say that many flowers pass their inspection with no trouble but they must be vigilant in their investigation. They are aware of the harm that can come from one batch of contaminated flowers being sent all over the world. The devastation can be huge.
So on Valentine’s Day and the few days after, when you see those beautiful flowers at your door or on your desk at work you can think back with appreciation to all the time spent being inspected before the florist even had a chance to arrange them for you.