Science and Technology News

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Baltimore CBP Makes Another 'New' Local Insect Discovery

Willow Weevil is Second Hitchhiker Aboard Italian Ceramic Tiles in a Month

Baltimore – For the second time in a month, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists discovered an insect pest new to Baltimore during an inspection of Italian ceramic tiles on Thursday.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist confirmed the weevil as a Dorytomus, also known as a Willow Weevil, a genus of plant-feeding weevil never before reported in Baltimore. CBP agriculture specialists also discovered a Holotrichapion pisi, also known as a Pea Weevil.

As with most beetles in the family Curculionidae or Apionidae, the Dorytomus’ specialized snouts allow weevils to bore into and feed on various plant parts including, stems, leaves, fruits, seeds and nuts.

On Dec. 13, 2010, CBP discovered a Stenopterapion tenue, a little-known species of plant-feeding weevil also on Italian ceramic tiles. The USDA reported that it was the first discovery of such insect pest in Baltimore.

“It is very unique that a single Customs and Border Protection port may capture two new insect pest discoveries in such a short time, and on a single commodity, that it raises some concern for us,” said CBP Baltimore Agriculture Supervisor David Ng. “CBP agriculture specialists remain determined to work with our trade partners and to take appropriate measures to mitigate any potential reoccurrence.”

The Dorytomus arrived to Baltimore on Jan. 1. CBP agriculture specialists discovered it on Thursday and submitted it to the USDA entomologist on Friday.

CBP issued an Emergency Action Notification requiring the importer to fumigate the container.

“Weevils, if left unchecked, could have a profound impact on America’s crop plant industries similarly to the impact cotton boll weevils have had on our nation’s cotton industry,” said Ng. “CBP agriculture specialists take very serious our mission of protecting American agriculture and each pest interception emphasizes the importance of our efforts.”

According to Ng, the infamous cotton boll weevil, which infested nearly all of the nation’s 16 million acres of cotton growing areas, cost the cotton industry an estimated $22 billion in cotton losses and pest eradication measures.

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.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

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