Destructive beetle found in port shipment

BALTIMORE - U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations (OFO) agriculture specialists at the port of Baltimore discovered that a shipment of celery seed from India was heavily infested with Khapra Beetle on February 7. 

The CBP agriculture specialists did not find any live insects but immediately collected specimens of the dead insects and sealed the container.

A shipment of celery seed from India that came into Baltimore last week carried a little more than expected.

Agricultural experts at the port found the seed was heavily infested with Khapra Beetle. Officials said the insects inside the sealed container were all dead.

Officials say the importer was issued an emergency action notice requiring the 500 bag, 55,000 pound shipment of celery seed to be re-exported or destroyed.  The importer chose to have the shipment re-exported. 

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 Ricardo Scheller, CBP Port Director for the Port of Baltimore. "And we take our mission to intercept these destructive pests and protecting America's agricultural industry very seriously."

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 the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), 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.

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