© 2023 KALW 91.7 FM Bay Area
KALW Public Media / 91.7 FM Bay Area
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Crosscurrents logo 2021

Operation pest patrol: Invaders at the border?


Operation pest patrol, Part I: Customs and Border Protection officers board and inspect every ship that comes into our country's ports.

State inspectors stop drivers and question crossing the California border. These government agents aren’t necessarily checking passports; they’re looking for pests.


Listen to Part II and Part III of the series.

Every ship that enters United States' waters has to be inspected by Customs and Border Protection officers for insects that might be hitching a ride. Agricultural specialists like Derrick Dumo board and search these ships — from the pantry to the deck — for pests that if allowed to accidentally enter the U.S., could decimate our agriculture.

At the California border, our state has an extra line of defense. If you’ve ever driven into the Golden State, you’ve probably been stopped at one of the sixteen agricultural checkpoints run by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. An inspector like Ryan McKenna might ask you if you have any plants or produce in your car — produce that might be infested with insects.

These are the crazy lengths that we go to as a country and a state to keep invasive insects from spreading and destroying our crops. Some scientists, like Dr. Matthew Chew of Arizona State University, want us to re-think this idea of “invasive.” Chew says, it’s not accurate to label a species as invasive or an invader. It makes it seem like we’re blaming the species. When really we humans introduced it. When we ship cargo on boats or airplanes or just move stuff around the globe, insects get moved, too. This is the reality of agricultural trade in our globalized world.