San Diego - A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialist from the Port of San Diego stopped a highly destructive beetle, never before seen in the U.S., from entering the country this month.
On Jan. 3, a maritime shipping container filled with fresh bananas from Peru arrived at the Port of San Diego. During the inspection process, a CBP agriculture specialist spotted a live beetle on the floor of the container.
The CBP agriculture specialist sent the beetle to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for identification. The Plant Protection and Quarantine division of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service identified the beetle as Gymnetis pantherina and confirmed that it was the first recorded interception of this particular bug anywhere in the U.S.
The beetle belongs to a family of insects that can be devastating agricultural pests, such as the Japanese beetle that is currently wreaking havoc on landscaping and trees in the U.S. They attack a wide range of plants, including not just ornamental plants but also agricultural crops and trees. The larvae will destroy the root system of plants, either killing the plant entirely or at least severely reducing the growth and yield potential of the crop. According to the USDA, the adult beetles of this family are known to attack the foliage of over 300 different species of ornamental and agricultural crops.
When a container of produce is found with a pest that requires the shipper to take action, they are given the option to: return the shipment to the country of origin, treat the produce to ensure that there are no pests, or destroy the shipment. In this case, the company re-exported the produce.
"Keeping this pest out of the nation saves American agricultural industry from the expense of eradication, and the hardship of finding their crops damaged by a new danger," said Pete Flores, acting director of field operations for CBP in San Diego. "By stopping bugs at the border, before they can enter the United States for the first time, CBP officers and agriculture specialists protect this vital American industry."
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.