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First in Port Insects Found in Aguadilla and Ponce

Release Date: 
June 4, 2015

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists carefully inspect imported agriculture commodities or arriving international passengers to protect America’s resources by preventing entry of non-native pests, diseases, and weeds before they take root. 

In separate incidents over the past weeks, CBP agriculture specialists in Aguadilla and Ponce discovered two new pests that had not been intercepted in their ports before.

“The pests agriculture specialists find are very small, at times looking like tiny specs of dirt until they start moving”, said Agriculture Operations Manager Sonja Cruz-Fidalgo, “But the impact they might have if they are introduced into the U.S could be extremely detrimental to our nation’s agriculture.” 

“Our agriculture specialists definitely take their job seriously as they don gloves and aprons before inspecting produce, boxes and containers searching for what some would say is a needle in the haystack,” she added.

Recently, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist confirmed that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agriculture Specialists had discovered a new insect pest on air cargo arriving to the Rafael Hernandez Airport in northwestern Puerto Rico. 

CBP Agriculture Specialists intercepted the insect, with scientific name Araptus sp. (Scolytidae), while inspecting a shipment of cut flowers from Colombia. They intercepted the insect on Hydrangea sp., also known as hydrangea or hortensia. According to USDA, this is the first time this particular insect has been intercepted in the Aguadilla Port of Entry.

CBP issued an Emergency Action Notification to the importer requiring the shipment to be re-exported or fumigated. The shipment will be safeguarded and transferred to USDA for treatment.

A few weeks earlier, CBP Agriculture Specialists from the Ponce Port of Entry were inspecting a shipment of lumber originating in Canada.  Upon close inspection they discovered an adult insect, which was identified by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) as Gnathotrichus retusus (Leconte) from the Scolytidae family, a “first in the nation” interception.  The shipment, containing 1,802 bundles of lumber, was safeguarded and transferred to USDA for treatment.

A recent interception of an Asian Gypsy Moth (AGM) egg mass on a ship from Europe in San Juan highlights the importance of preventing the introduction of invasive species (insects, weeds or diseases).  These pests could cause immense damage to crops and eradication efforts could reach billions of dollars if not controlled at the onset. 

CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection. They remain vigilant in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to protect our nation’s resources. 

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017