BALTIMORE—A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist confirmed Wednesday that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists at Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport discovered a new pest in the Baltimore area when they intercepted, Maconellicoccus multipori, a type of mealybug, while inspecting cherimoya fruit found inside of a traveler's luggage on December 30, 2012.
Mealybugs can pose a significant agriculture threat because they feed on plant juices of greenhouse plants, house plants and subtropical trees weakening them. They also act as a vector for several plant diseases. Infestation can lead to a decrease in productivity and quality of crops, which can result in significant economic loss.
"CBP agriculture specialists are very good at detecting foreign invasive plants and plant pests," said Sheryl Monette, assistant port director for the Port of Baltimore. "This discovery highlights the importance of the work they do, part of which is protecting the U.S. agriculture industry."
The insects were discovered on cherimoya fruit being carried by a passenger originating from India and arriving from the United Kingdom. CBP seized the cherimoya fruit and forwarded a specimen of the mealybug to a USDA- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) - Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) entomologist for identification. The remaining fruits 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 - APHIS website.
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 CBP.gov.
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.