If someone were to tell you that Valentine’s Day, insects and drug crimes have a common thread, would you believe them? The fact is that there is a common thread that runs through the three subjects and the common thread is imported flowers from South America. Every year the vast majority of flowers that are sent to Valentines throughout the United States are imported from Columbia and Ecuador and pass through Miami International Airport. Those countries are also sources of insects not found in North American and illicit drugs.
Though the average American probably does not realize it, the workload for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Miami is at its highest preceding Valentine’s Day. What average Americans may also not know is that federal agents are searching their bouquets for drugs and they have a lot of flowers to search through. More than 80 percent of flowers that are ordered by American for Valentine’s Day are imported through Miami International Airport, and agents have to process over 272 million individual flowers two weeks before the holiday.
Federal agents shake bouquets to find insects that may harm crops in the United States and use X-rays and other methods to find illegal drugs contained with the bouquets. If any harmful, non-native insects are found a sample insect will be preserved in vial containing alcohol and the flowers are quarantined and fumigated to kill any other possible insects. Some examples of dangerous insects include aphids, thrips, miner flies and moths. The bouquets that contain drugs are a different story.
Bouquets or flower shipments containing drugs go on to be a part of a controlled delivery where investigators can investigate, identify or arrest people involved with the drug crime. The overwhelming flow of flowers from South America is used by drug traffickers to mask illegal drug flow. Agents say that mounds of discarded flower stems can be found at front businesses used by traffickers. The next time you order flowers for Valentine’s Day expect a shake down.
Source: The Associated Press, “Valentine flower imports checked for bugs, drugs” 2/3/11