BALTIMORE—A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist confirmed Wednesday that U. S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO) agriculture specialists at Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport discovered a new pest in the Baltimore area when they intercepted, a Helicoverpa armigera, or Cotton Bollworm, while inspecting a bag of peppers found inside of a traveler's luggage on Jan. 17.
Cotton Bollworm can pose a significant agriculture threat because they feed on a wide variety of important agriculture crops, such as corn, tomatoes, chickpeas, alfalfa, tobacco, cotton, sorghum, sunflower, soybean and groundnuts. Infestation can lead to a decrease in productivity and quality of these crops, which can result in significant economic loss. When bacteria and fungi enter the injury caused by the feeding caterpillars indirect effects such as rotting or early dropping of fruits can occur.
"CBP agriculture specialists take their job of detecting foreign invasive plants and plant pests very seriously," said Ricardo Scheller port director for the Port of Baltimore. "This is another example of our agriculture specialist performing a thorough inspection and finding a new potential threat to the U.S. agriculture industry."
The caterpillar was discovered in a pepper being carried by a passenger originating from Ghana and arriving from the United Kingdom. CBP seized the infested peppers and forwarded the specimen to a USDA- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) - Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) entomologist for identification. The remaining peppers were then destroyed by incineration.
CBP agriculture specialists work closely with USDA's, APHIS, PPQ to protect our nation's agriculture resources against the introduction of foreign plant pests and animal diseases.
For more on the USDA, APHIS, PPQ program, please visit the USDA Web site
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 United States and seize 4,919 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 476 insect pests.
To learn more about CBP agriculture specialists, please visit the CBP Web site.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.