Customs Specialists at Port Intercept Rare Pest, First In Florida Discovery

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PORT MANATEE, Fla. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists discovered a rare and aggressive pest—a potentially destructive type of New World army ant—during an inspection at Port Manatee in June. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed that this is the first time it has been intercepted in Florida.

CBP agriculture specialists intercepted the highly unusual pest during an inspection of malangas—a starchy root vegetable common in South America—arriving in a shipment from Mexico. Eciton are a type of New World army ant with potential to cause devastation to ecosystems if left unchecked.

“CBP agriculture specialists are the first line of defense and this is just the latest example of how teams of teams across Florida safeguard American agriculture,” said Area Port Director Radames A. Torres.“The introduction of certain pests can potentially devastate portions of American agriculture and why CBP agriculture specialists are ever-vigilant searching continuously for harmful pests and plant diseases.”

Each year, CBP agriculture specialists intercept tens of thousands of “actionable pests” – those identified through scientific risk assessment and study as being dangerous to the health and safety of U.S. agricultural resources. They are highly trained and experienced in biological sciences and inspection techniques used to detect biological threats.

On a typical day in Fiscal Year 2018, CBP agriculture specialists intercepted 319 pests at U.S. ports of entry and 4,552 materials for quarantine: plant, meat, animal byproduct and soil.

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