Agriculture Specialist Albert Coronel roughs up some carnations as he searches for bugs. He is inspecting one of hundreds of boxes of flowers that were shipped into Los Angeles airport in anticipation of Valentine's Day.
Los Angeles International Airport may smell sweeter than usual this week. That’s because cargo jets are delivering millions of flowers in preparation for Valentine’s Day. Federal Customs and Border Patrol has stepped up inspections to ensure that the flowers you pick up at the store don’t harbor unwanted pests.
A single bouquet of flowers can hide dozens of little green aphids. The almost unnoticeable little creatures can carry crop-destroying diseases. That's why U.S. Customs and Border Patrol are searching samples from every shipment of flowers coming to Los Angeles.
Beison Ramirez with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol says aphids are just one of the many critters he finds during flower shipment inspections.
"Sometimes there’s spiders, sometimes there's lizards or frogs that pop out of there," Ramirez explains. "Mostly you see caterpillars falling out or moths that try to fly out. Even if it’s a moth you want to catch it before it escapes because there are a lot of moths that are real big agricultural pests to fruit and vegetables here.”
Last year during this period the federal agency inspected more than 17 million flowers and found 93 varieties of pests.