Valentine's Day a busy time for LAX flower inspectors

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Before those roses light up your sweetheart's eyes on Valentine's Day, they are put through a rigorous inspection process at Los Angeles International Airport.

This is a busy time of year for the dozens of U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture inspectors who work near LAX looking for disease and insects in millions of flowers imported to the United States every Valentine's season.

Los Angeles is the country's second busiest port of entry for flowers, with some 37 million stems moving through the airport during last year's Valentine's season.

Inspectors intercepted 372 pests last year.

When they find an insect, they send it off immediately to a federal entomologist, who will determine if the bug poses any danger and whether the flower should be treated, sent back to its country of origin or destroyed.

Any foreign insect that slips through the process poses serious consequences.

"It could be detrimental to the agriculture of California, especially for the industry here," said Hugo Rodriguez, an agriculture specialist with Customs and Border Protection.

This year there are even more flowers to inspect. The National Retail Federation said last year the average person will spend about $142 celebrating Valentine's Day - up from $134 last year.
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