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San Juan CBP Detect Hidden Vermin in Imported Flower Shipments

Release Date: 
June 7, 2011

San Juan, Puerto Rico - Though they elude the naked eye, small insects can hide within fruits, vegetables or flowers that could damage local farmed crops and amount to significant costs to eradicate and treat.

This week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists at the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport found an actionable pest inside a shipment of cut flowers from Colombia.

The scientific name of the insect is Blapstinus sp. (Tenebrionidae), commonly known as the Darkling Beetle. The Darkling Beetle is most diverse in the arid southwest U.S., found under the bark of trees where they feed on fungi.

This interception marks the first time that such an insect was found in the LMMIA cargo facilities. All infested and contaminated shipments were safeguarded and transferred for appropriate destruction and/or for further treatment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service / Plant Protection and Quarantine.

Invasive species include nonnative, alien, or exotic plant pests (such as insects, mollusks, weeds, or pathogens); animal and zoonotic disease pathogens, which can transmit diseases between animals and humans; or other organisms that can cause economic or environmental harm to U.S. agriculture, range, and forest systems if they enter the United States.

While most plant pest introductions occur unintentionally, as an end result of increased global travel and trade, acts of biological terrorism which threaten the United States agricultural and natural resources are a rising fear. Plant pests, weeds, and diseases are all potential agents of bioterrorism. Nonetheless, exporters, importers and producers should be cognizant of the U.S. phytosanitary measures before shipping their products.

The most common type of insects intercepted in these cut flower imports are Thrips (Thripidae), Moths (Noctuidae), Aphids (Aphididae), and Miner Flies (Agromyzidae). These insects are invasive pests as they have the potential to adversely affect the habitats and bioregions they invade economically, environmentally, and/or ecologically. Roses top the list of the top 10 cut flower imports followed by Mixed Bouquets, Dianthus (carnations) and Chrysanthemum (pom-pon).

CBP agriculture specialists safeguard American agriculture by detecting and preventing entry into the country of plant pests and exotic foreign animal diseases that could harm agricultural resources. They do this with inspection and prevention efforts designed to keep prohibited agricultural items from entering the United States. These items, whether in commercial cargo or as "hitchhikers" with an international airline passenger or a pedestrian crossing the border, could cause serious damage to America's crops, livestock, and the environment.

For more detailed information on these and other pests, the public can consult the following link on the USDA/APHIS website. (Plant Health)

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017