CBP Catches Asian Gypsy Moths at Port of Tacoma
TACOMA, WASH.—U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel intercepted a serious infestation of Asian Gypsy Moth egg masses on a cargo ship at the Port of Tacoma on Wednesday. AGM is a serious threat to our forests and urban landscapes, known to attack more than 500 species of trees and other plants.
As with most moths, AGM adults are attracted to lights, including those used in seaports for loading ships at night. The adult females swarm to the lights and lay their eggs on the exposed surfaces of brightly-lit ships. During a routine inspection, CBP detected many AGM egg masses. Each egg mass, though only a few inches long, can contain up to 1,000 eggs. The eggs hatch into tiny but voracious caterpillars, which can produce silken threads and use them to glide to shore in a process called "ballooning." If AGM were to become established in the United States, it has the potential to spread rapidly, since adult females can fly up to 25 miles.
CBP is committed to keeping this highly destructive insect out of the United States. CBP agriculture specialists stationed at seaports throughout the nation conduct thousands of vessel inspections every year, which include searching exterior ship surfaces for AGM adults or eggs.
A CBP agriculture specialist targeted this empty bulk grain carrier for inspection because it had visited a port in East Asia, known to be a potential AGM risk area. The inspection team, consisting of a CBP agriculture specialist and two CBP officers, found egg masses on many parts of the ship's superstructure. Samples they collected were sent to a U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory in Massachusetts, which used DNA analysis to confirm the identity of the egg masses as Lymantria dispar asiatica, commonly known as Asian Gypsy Moth.
"This important interception highlights the threat we face from the Asian Gypsy Moth in our seaport environment," said Area Port Director Mark Wilkerson. "CBP agriculture specialists perform a critical border security role in safeguarding America's agriculture and natural resources from harmful pests and plant diseases."
Following the discovery of the egg masses, the vessel was ordered out to international waters for cleaning. Thorough cleaning of all the exterior surfaces and crevices by a commercial cleaning company resulted in the discovery and removal of more than 275 egg masses from the vessel. After cleaning, the ship was re-inspected by CBP and released to load cargo in Tacoma.
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.