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CBP Atlanta Intercepts Destructive Khapra Beetle

Release Date: 
September 12, 2014

ATLANTA— U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists working at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) recently intercepted the insect described as the world’s most destructive insect pest of grain products and seeds.

CBP Agriculture Detector Dog ‘Regal’ alerted to the passenger’s luggage after the passenger arrived from Sudan. The CBP K9 handler then referred the passenger to a secondary agriculture examination.

During that examination, a CBP agriculture specialist discovered dried pigeon peas in the passenger’s luggage that contained a live larva and cast skins. CBP submitted the insect to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist for identification which proved to be Khapra Beetle (Trogoderma granarium Everts).

“Our best defense against destructive pests is to prevent their entry into the United States. The cost to American taxpayers to eradicate a pest or disease once it becomes established in the U.S. can reach millions of dollars,” said Stephen Kremer, Area Port Director for Customs and Border Protection in Atlanta.

The peas were destroyed.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists intercepted the highly destructive Khapra Beetle in pigeon peas in a passenger's luggage at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport August 24, 2014.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists intercepted the highly destructive Khapra Beetle in pigeon peas in a passenger's luggage at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport August 24, 2014.

The Khapra Beetle is considered one of the world’s most destructive insect pests of grains, cereals and stored foods and remains the only insect in which CBP takes regulatory action against even while in a dead state.

The Khapra Beetle is labeled a ‘dirty feeder’ because it damages more grain than it consumes, and because it contaminates grain with body parts and hairs. These contaminants may cause gastrointestinal irritation in adults and especially sickens infants.  Khapra Beetles can also tolerate insecticides and fumigants, and can survive for long periods without food.

According to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, previous infestations of Khapra Beetle have resulted in massive, long-term control and eradication efforts at great cost to the American taxpayer.

California implemented extensive eradication measures following a Khapra Beetle infestation discovered there in 1953. The effort was deemed successful, but at a cost of approximately $11 million. Calculated in today’s dollars, that would be about $90 million.

Related information: USDA Restricts the Importation of Commercial and Noncommercial Quantities of Rice from Countries Where Khapra Beetle Is Known to Occur

CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection. On a typical day nationally, they inspect almost 1 million people as well as air and sea cargo imported to the United States and intercept 4,379 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 440 insect pests.

To learn more about CBP agriculture protection mission, please visit Protecting Agriculture on the CBP website.

For more information on U.S. Customs and Border Protection, please visit www.cbp.gov.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017