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CBP Chicago Finds Destructive Medfly in Air Cargo Shipment

Release Date: 
January 12, 2016

CHICAGO—U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agriculture Specialists conducting cargo inspections at the O’Hare International Airport recently discovered an infestation of Mediterranean fruit fly larvae (Ceratitis capitata) in three shipments of bell peppers from Spain.

Medfly in peppers

Mediterranean fruit fly larvae in peppers

These shipments were quarantined in a secure environment and the insect specimens were preserved and forwarded to the local USDA pest identification lab office where they were positively identified as Mediterranean fruit fly. Because of the significant threat posed by these pests, the USDA issued Federal Order DA-2016-01 suspending importation of peppers (Capsicum annum) from Spain.

“CBP Agriculture Specialists continually demonstrate their vigilance in intercepting these extremely destructive pests that could cause substantial damage to our agricultural and economic interests,” said Area Port Director Matthew Davies.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata), commonly called medfly, is one of the world’s most destructive agricultural pests.  The female medfly attacks ripening fruit, piercing the soft skin and laying eggs in the puncture.  The eggs hatch into larvae (maggots) that feed inside the fruit pulp and make the fruit inedible.  The medfly’s host range includes more than 300 plant species.

If the medfly were to become established here, the estimated annual market value of U.S. com­modities that would be at risk is more than $7.2 billion. That dollar figure is the sum of potential damage to our Nation’s economy from export sanc­tions, lost markets, treatment costs, eradication and control efforts, reduced crop yields, plant deformities, and premature fruit drop for items that are potential hosts for the fruit fly.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017