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Pest Hops Into Port for First Time

Release Date: 
November 2, 2011

Houston - A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialist working at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport's air cargo facility intercepted a shipment of herbs, October 24, which contained a pest that has never been seen in Houston before.

A CBP agriculture specialist inspected a shipment of fresh marjoram from Mexico and found Parallaxis vacillans Mcatee (Cicadellidae) commonly called a leafhopper. This pest species causes five economically important injuries to plants. Some species of the leafhopper remove excessive amounts of sap and reduce or destroy chlorophyll, the green pigment, in leaves. Other species mechanically plug up phloem and xylem vessels in leaves so that the transport of food materials is impaired, while other species injure plants by laying eggs in green twigs. Many species of this pest act as vectors of the organisms that cause plant diseases, and other species cause stunting and leaf curling due to the inhibition of growth on the undersurface of the leaves when the leafhopper feeds.

"Our agriculture specialists carefully comb through shipments, regardless of their origin, searching for insects that can potentially destroy American agriculture," said Houston CBP Director Jeffrey O. Baldwin Sr.

CBP agriculture specialists collected the leafhopper and sent it to an entomologist at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Plant Inspection Station for identification. It was determined that the leafhopper had never been intercepted in Houston. Coincidentally, CBP agriculture specialists working in Los Angeles also intercepted this pest for the first time in their port as well.

The shipment of fresh herbs seized in Houston was destroyed.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017