PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists intercepted Khapra beetle larvae, an insect considered one of the world’s most destructive insect pests of grains, cereals and stored foods, in passenger baggage recently at Philadelphia International Airport.
CBP officers referred a woman who arrived August 3 from Sudan to an agriculture secondary examination. There, CBP agriculture specialists discovered two immature insects in dried berries within her luggage. The dried berries showed obvious insect damage.
CBP submitted the specimens to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist who confirmed on Friday that the specimen was Trogoderma granarium Everts, commonly known as Khapra beetle.
“The Khapra beetle poses a serious threat to our nation’s agriculture and to our economy,” said Shawn Polley, CBP Acting Port Director for the Area Port of Philadelphia. “Our best defense against destructive pests, like the Khapra beetle, is to prevent their entry into the United States, and that is a mission that Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists take very serious.”
Khapra beetle remains the only insect in which CBP takes regulatory action against even while the insect pest is in a dead state. The Khapra beetle is a ‘dirty feeder’ because it damages more grain than it consumes, and because it contaminates grain with body parts and hair. These contaminants may cause gastrointestinal irritation in adults and sickens infants.
Khapra beetle can also tolerate insecticides and fumigants, and can survive for long periods without food.
According to the USDA 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.
For example, 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.
“This Khapra beetle interception illustrates the need each day for Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists to exercise vigilance during inspections of passenger baggage entering the United States,” said Casey Owen Durst, CBP Director, Baltimore Field Operations. “Safeguarding America’s agriculture industries remains an enforcement priority for CBP.”