MIAMI (CBS4) — As Valentine’s Day rapidly approaches, thousands of people across the country will opt for the traditional gift of a rose bouquet and card. What you may not know is that before those flowers reach your local florist, many were grown in other countries and shipped here to the U.S.

Miami ranks first among U.S. ports of entry for flower shipments followed by Los Angeles. As to which country ships the most flowers to Miami, it’s not even close.

“Colombia and Ecuador,” said Rolando Suliveras with U.S. Customs and Border Protection at Miami International Airport. “The biggest one being Colombia at 200 million stems followed by Ecuador with 70 million.”

Specialists open flower boxes and shake them to see if they can spot pesky critters.

“If they get in your garden they can damage both your exotic and native plants,” said assistant port director MIA Gerard Russo, “If they get into the Everglades the same thing could happen because we don’t have any predators that would feed on these exotic insects.”

The most common insects found in the shipments are aphids, moths and thrips, which according to the experts, can be quite harmful.

“This is a dipteral which is in the fly family,” said Chief Agriculture Specialist Michael Diblasi pointing at a small insect in a shipment. “We will prepare this, document it and turn it over to our partners at the USDA.”

Thursday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agents were busy at MIA, making sure that flower imports used in Valentine’s Day bouquets are free from insects and diseases. The agents will inspect about 200 boxes of a shipment of approximately a thousand boxes.

“There are hundreds of thousands of shipments at the Port of Miami. We inspect 85 percent of the flowers that come to the U.S, that’s only one portion of the job,” said Diblasi.

The CBP will process 95,000 boxes of flowers a day in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day.

On any given day, they say, more than 43,000 boxes of flowers arrive from foreign lands at Miami International Airport.


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