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Baltimore CBP Intercepts First Phaenomerus Weevil and One of World's Most Destructive Insect Pests-Kharpa

Release Date: 
July 13, 2011

Baltimore - For the first time in the Baltimore area, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists intercepted a Phaenomerus weevil while inspecting containers of stainless steel coils at the seaport Friday. A national U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist on Monday confirmed the discovery as a first in port.

Phaenomerus Weevil

Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists discovered a Phaenomerus weevil in a shipping container of stainless steel coils at the Baltimore seaport July 8, 2011. The Phaenomerus weevil is a crop plant feeder and a potential threat to United States agriculture

Photo Credit:Photo to J.Young, USDA, APHIS, PPQ/Handout

A national USDA pest identifier also confirmed Tuesday that several insect pest interceptions - one live larva, one dead adult and three cast skins - in rice shipped from Saudia Arabia via international mail was Khapra beetle, one of the world's most destructive and invasive insect pests. CBP agriculture specialists discovered the insect specimens July 6 and submitted them for identification the following day. CBP destroyed the entire package.

There's not much known about the Phaenomerus. They are from the family Curculionidae, which are generally snout-nosed plant feeders. Adults consume and lay eggs in leaves and stems, while larvae feed on root systems. They pose a significant agriculture threat to crop plants.

CBP issued an Emergency Action Notification and USDA fumigated the stainless steel coil shipment.

"Protecting America's agriculture industry is an enormous responsibility, and Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists take their job very serious," said Ricardo Scheller, CBP Port Director for the Port of Baltimore. "Each CBP insect pest interception emphasizes the importance of their efforts and a First in Port discovery is worth noting -- as both a significant milestone and as a warning to a new potential agriculture threat."

CBP agriculture specialists discovered 40 dead Khapra larvae in a shipping container of Pakistan rice June 16. The two previous documented Khapra interceptions in Baltimore occurred in 1996 and 1987.

The Khapra beetle is considered one of the world's most destructive insect pests of grains, cereals and stored foods. It is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia and is now present throughout much of northern Africa and the Middle East, with a limited presence in Asia, Europe and southern Africa. In the U.S., Khapra beetles were first found in California in 1953, which began a massive control and eradication effort until 1966. The infestation was successfully eradicated by fumigation in the U.S. at a cost of approximately $11 million.

CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection. On a typical day, they inspect tens of thousands of international air passengers, and air and sea cargoes nationally being imported to the U.S. and seize 4,291 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 454 insect pests.

To learn more about CBP agriculture specialists, please visit Agricultural Specialist Careers.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017