Houston - A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialist working at the Houston/Galveston Seaport recently discovered two insects not previously found in the U.S. while performing routine inspections of imported tile in November.
The Houston/Galveston Seaport was notified December 2, that the specimens had never before been seen in the United States.
"Protecting our nation's agriculture is a job that our agriculture specialists take seriously," said Port Director Michael Sinclair. "These pests have the potential to attack our agriculture. That's a scary thought, especially when we consider that almost every aspect of our daily existence relies, in some part, on agriculture products or by-products."
The specimens, which were discovered in tile shipments arriving from Italy, were removed from the shipments and sent to an entomologist at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Plant Inspection Station for identification. The specimens were subsequently forwarded to a national identifier at the Smithsonian Institute.
The national identifier determined the moth to be Ipomorpha sp. (Noctuidae). The Noctuidae species is a family of moths that have been classified as a serious agriculture pest due to the harmful effect they have on American agriculture. The Noctuidae larvae, or caterpillar, which live in soil and feed at night, can be extremely harmful to plants and crops as they consume plant material and fruits. Once the caterpillar becomes a moth, it can fly and spread infestations across the country.
The second insect was classified as Chrysomela collaris Linnaeus (Chrysomelidae), commonly referred to as a "leaf beetle". Leaf beetle adults feed on living plant material. The leaf beetle larvae are subterranean; they burrow in the soil and attack plant roots and underground stems.
The United States spends millions of dollars each year in pesticides, in order to prevent catastrophic damage to our agriculture, homes, forests and waterways.
The tile shipments have been treated for pests and released.
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.