US flag Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Bad, Buggy, Blotched and Blighted Biological Specimens

Featured Artifact

One of the most critical jobs in CBP is protecting this nation from dangerous biological invaders. These harmful insects, pests, and diseases try to sneak in by accident as hitchhikers attached to legitimate cargo, but also through intentional smuggling of prohibited animal and plant products. Agriculture Specialists are the front line force stationed at international ports of entry, land borders and mail facilities, whose role is to identify potentially destructive specimens and keep them out.

Agriculture Specialists are faced with hunting for a staggering array of damaging biota. They must be able to recognize organic plants and animals that do not belong, a daunting task when these intruders can be microscopic in size, lying dormant and hidden within other materials, and in various stages of their life cycles.

Many of CBP’s inspection locations retain modern and historic collections of specimens—stashed in vials and jars, mounted in boxes, and encased in Lucite. These collections serve as a physical encyclopedia and record of what was plucked from shipments and travelers. The four specimen boxes shown here date from the legacy U.S. Customs Service, and were transferred to the Headquarters Collections from CBP Agriculture Air Cargo Operations in Miami, Florida.

historic agriculture specimen

From left to right:
  • Plant specimens in mounting box. Poaceae, Avena sterilis Linnaeus, Federal Noxious Weed, Dried flower from Columbia, Coll. B. Skafidas, Det. L, Castaneda. Object ID# 2018.4.5. 17x22x2cm
  • Specimens in mounting box. Small white snails in glass vial, Helicella intersecta, found with Eriocephalus cut flowers (commonly called cotton flower) from South Africa & Swaziland. ACTION REQUIRED marked on label. Object ID# 2018.4.6. 21x31x2cm
  • Specimens in mounting box. Protea Diseases. Three examples: Coleroa senniana, Leptosphaeria protearum; Stigmina protearum. Object ID# 2018.4.7. 21x31x2cm
  • Specimens in picture frame. 2 examples. Label for "HOST Citrus sp. DANGEROUS AIRPORT BAGGAGE INTERCEPTIONS Parlatoria ziziphi (Lucas)." Label for "HOST Mangifera indica. Aulacaspis tubercularis Newstead." Object ID# 2018.4.8. 28x38x1cm


Last modified: 
June 8, 2021