BALTIMORE—A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist confirmed Friday 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, Palmaspis sp. (Asterolecaniidae), a type of scale insect, while inspecting a palm leaf hat worn by a traveler on June 25. The USDA entomologist also confirmed today that the CBP agriculture specialists at the Baltimore seaport discovered another new pest in the Baltimore area when they intercepted Dolichoderus quadripiunctatus, a type of ant, while inspecting a containerized shipment of ceramic tiles from Italy on November 20.
Scale insects can pose a significant agriculture threat because they draw sap directly from a host plant’s vascular system weakening it. Infestation can lead to a decrease in productivity and quality of crops, which can result in significant economic loss. Scale insects are known to have a waxy covering which makes them quite resistant to pesticides. Ants can protect honeydew producing and sucking insects such as scale, mealybug, aphis, and whiteflys that do a great deal of damage to crops.
“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. “These discoveries highlight the importance of the work they do, part of which is protecting the U.S. agriculture industry.”
The scale insect was discovered on a palm leaf hat being worn by a passenger arriving from Jamaica. CBP seized the infested hat and forwarded a specimen to a USDA- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) - Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) entomologist for identification. The remaining palm leaves were then destroyed by incineration. The ant was discovered in the interior of a shipping container of ceramic tile from Italy. The container was safeguarded and specimens of the ants were forwarded to a USDA- APHIS - PPQ entomologist for identification. CBP issued an Emergency Action Notice to the importer requiring the container to be fumigated or re-exported. The importer elected to have the shipment fumigated.
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 information on the USDA, APHIS, PPQ program, please visit the USDA, APHIS, PPQ Program 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.