PITTSBURGH—U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists at Pittsburgh International Airport discovered live Khapra beetles and larvae in a bag of rice being carried by a traveler from Saudi Arabia on August 23. The specimens were forwarded to a U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist who confirmed them as Trogoderma granarium, commonly known as Khapra Beetle, on September 12.
The Khapra Beetle is considered one of the world's most destructive insect pests of grains, cereals and stored foods and remains the only insect in which CBP takes regulatory action against even while in a dead state.
"Khapra Beetle is one of the most invasive insects CBP agriculture specialists encounter," said Joseph Klaus CBP Port Director for the Port of Pittsburgh. "And we take our mission to intercept these destructive pests and protecting America's agricultural industry very seriously."
The insects were discovered in a 10 pound bag of rice being carried by a passenger originating from Saudi Arabia and arriving from France. CBP seized the rice and forwarded specimens of the Khapra beetles and larvae to a Department of Agriculture entomologist for identification. The remaining rice was destroyed by incineration.
The Khapra Beetle is labeled a 'dirty feeder' because it damages more grain than it consumes, and because it contaminates grain with body parts and hairs. These contaminants may cause gastrointestinal irritation in adults and especially sickens infants. Khapra Beetles can also tolerate insecticides and fumigants, and can survive for long periods of time without food.
According to Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, previous infestations of Khapra Beetle have resulted in massive, long term-control and eradication efforts at great cost to the American taxpayer.
California implemented extensive eradication measures following a Khapra Beetle infestation discovered there in 1953. The effort was deemed successful, but at a cost of approximately $11 million. Calculated in today's dollars, that would be about $90 million.
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.