Philadelphia, PA - A national U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist confirmed late last week that three insect pests that Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists discovered in Wilmington, Del., in September were the first time these insects were encountered in Wilmington.
All three are plant eating weevils that can pose significant impacts on America's crop plant industries if left unchecked. Two of the interceptions are believed to be relatively new discoveries in the United States.
CBP agriculture specialists discovered a Polytus mellerborgii (Boheman) (Dryophthoridae), also known as the small banana weevil, in a shipment of Costa Rican bananas Sept. 26. There have been 13 previous interceptions documented in the USDA database. The first documented interception occurred in Miami in 1993. The small banana weevil is native to Malaysia, but has moved across the globe.
CBP agriculture specialists discovered a Madarellus SP. (Curculionidae) in a shipment of Costa Rican pineapples Sept. 20. There have been four documented interceptions of this insect, the first discovered in Brownsville, Texas in 2006.
CBP agriculture specialists discovered a Cleistolophus subfasciatus Sharp (Curculionidae) in a shipment of Honduran pineapples Sept. 25. There have also been four documented interceptions of this weevil, the first discovered in Gulfport, Miss., in 2007.
"It is unusual to record three first-in-port insect interceptions in less than one week, but these discoveries confirm the purpose of thorough Customs and Border Protection agriculture inspections. CBP agriculture specialists ensure that the imported produce is safe for American consumption and harmless to American agriculture," said Allan Martocci, CBP port director for the Area Port of Philadelphia.
CBP agriculture specialists discovered the insects during routine inspections of fruit arriving from overseas. CBP sends the specimens to a local USDA entomologist for accurate identification. A national USDA entomologist verifies any local entomologist's claims of a first-in-port or a first-in-nation discovery.
CBP issued Emergency Action Notifications following the interceptions that required the containers to be thoroughly fumigated or re-exported.
"Protecting America's agriculture industry is an enormous responsibility, and Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists take their job very serious," said Martocci. "Each CBP insect pest interception emphasizes the importance of their efforts."
CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection. On a typical day, they inspect tens of thousands of international air passengers, and air and sea cargoes nationally being imported to the United States and seize 4,291 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 454 insect pests.
To learn more about CBP agriculture specialists, please visit the Agriculture Specialist website.