The HungryPests Coalition, a statewide group of environmental and agriculture industry organizations, is taking its most serious problems into the homes of California residents — urban and rural.

The coalition launched a three-pronged advertising campaign Aug. 17 to educate the public about the need to manage and to eliminate invasive pests before they wreak havoc on California’s nearly $40 billion a year agriculture industry. The campaign, funded by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, includes radio and television commercials and newspaper advertisements.

The HungryPests coalition, with money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, unveiled a public awareness campaign Aug. 17 that includes TV spots.

As the coalition geared up for the campaign, it conducted surveys and focus groups, said Larry Hawkins, a Sacramento, Calif.-based spokesman for the Department of Agriculture.

“We found the public has a consciousness for endangered species,” he said. “But the polling showed most people don’t have a very good sense of how vulnerable the U.S. as a whole and California in particular are to invasive species.”

Research efforts, building the coalition’s Web site,, and production costs captured one-third of the budget, Hawkins said. The paid advertising campaign will cost $2 million and will run through October in several markets: San Francisco, Monterey-Salinas, Sacramento, Fresno-Visalia and Bakersfield, he said. Budget limitations prevented expanding the campaign to Southern California, he said.

The advertising is not targeted at specific invasive pests or a particular strategy to deal with the pests.

“The goal is to educate and raise the general public’s awareness of the risks from invasive species,” Hawkins said.

The campaign is not the first paid advertising effort supported by USDA funds, but it is the first to focus on a single state. Plant material was confiscated from more than 40,000 vehicles entering California last year, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

“Those people simply were not aware that California with its Mediterranean climate not only grows just about anything you want but will also support the invasion of just about any insect,” Hawkins said. “I don’t think people do this in a mean-spirited way or in a way they anticipate that would injure the U.S. environment; they just don’t know.”

A secondary focus of the advertising campaign is to motivate members of the public who recognize the potential threats from invasive pests and are willing to become involved in public policy issues.

“We need more people to become engaged so when some people say a particular insect is not a problem, we need people other than those of us from USDA or CDFA to explain the pest could be a serious risk,” Hawkins said.