CHICAGO (STMW) – When you bury your face in a sweet-smelling bouquet from your valentine this Monday, take a second to thank … the trained flower inspectors with U.S. Customs and Border Protection? Actually, yes.

The agency’s agriculture specialists inspect millions of cut flowers shipped during the Valentine’s Day rush each year, weeding out stowaway insects from far-flung locales and removing flowers with diseases that could harm other plants, according to a release from the agency’s Chicago office.

Last year, specialists in Chicago alone inspected and processed two million cut flowers, the release said. Good thing — Chicago ranks in the top three nationwide for locations with the most pest interceptions. Common types of bugs found in popular flower imports include moths, white flies and thrips, a type of winged insect.

The agency processed more than 320 million stems nationwide last Valentine’s season, most of which were imported from Colombia, Ecuador and other South American countries, the release said.

“CBP agriculture specialists do an outstanding job in protecting this country from pests and diseases that could cause significant impact on agriculture in the United States,” said David Murphy, the agency’s Director of Field Operations in Chicago. The specialists form a “front line” of protection against insects and diseases entering the country through international ports of entry, land borders or mail facilities, the release said.

But what type of blooms does the Windy City prefer? Tulips, roses, daffodils, orchids and gerbera daisies were the top five types of flowers imported into Chicago last year, the release said.

“I am proud of the CBP specialists who are working long hours to ensure the flowers you give to that special someone are pest-free,” Murphy said in the release.

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