New Orleans - An alert U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialist prevented what could have been a major threat to forest habitats in the U.S. The discovery of eggs on a vessel anchored in the river appeared to be those of the Asian Gypsy Moth. The vessel has been restricted at anchorage and further inspection is ongoing to ensure that no other egg masses are found and the vessel has been treated so that the infestation has been eradicated.
Bulk carriers such as the ones boarded by CBP can be more than 500 feet long, making it no simple task to find eggs smaller than a kernel of corn. CBP is highly trained in detecting the Asian Gypsy Moth and its egg masses on these vessels. Their skills were put to the test when CBP boarded the vessel on the Mississippi River Monday morning that arrived from Japan with a prior port call at China, both high risk ports of call for possible infestation for the Asian Gypsy Moth.
The eggs were gathered and sent to the laboratory for identification where it is was confirmed to be Lymantria dispar, the scientific name for Asian Gypsy Moth. AGM eggs begin hatching into caterpillars in the spring. The damage caused during the caterpillar stage, as the insects feed on leaves, can be catastrophic to U.S. forestry. These caterpillars have been known to feed on more than 500 species of trees and shrubs.
CBP immediately acted to ensure the safety of the country and its forest industry which has major ecological, economic and social importance for the U.S. and the State of Louisiana. If an infestation were to occur in the U.S. it could cause millions of dollars of damage.
"Finding AGM before the season really even gets started is concerning. The vigilance already displayed by the Agriculture Specialists will continue energetically to ensure we safeguard our forests and agriculture industry from this pest," said Robert C. Gomez, acting director of the CBP New Orleans field office.
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.