1 of world’s most destructive insects found at DC airports

The Khapra beetle is one of the world's most destructive insects, It remains the only insect in which U.S. Customs and Border Protection takes regulatory action. (Courtesy Customs and Border Protection)

BALTIMORE (AP) — The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol says it has intercepted one of the world’s most destructive pests of stored grains, cereals and seeds at two Washington-area airports this year.

An agency release Thursday said agriculture specialists at Washington Dulles International Airport and Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport recently encountered the Khapra beetle, the only insect it takes regulatory action against. The statement describes the insect as having the potential to economically cripple exporters.

The Khapra beetle is what’s considered at “dirty feeder” because it damages more grain than it eats, and because it contaminates grain with body parts and hairs, the U.S. Customs and Border said. Khapra beetles are able to tolerate insecticides and fumigants. They can survive for long periods without food.

“Khapra beetle is one of the most invasive and destructive insects that Customs and Border Protection may encounter, and it poses a significant threat to our nation’s agriculture industries and to our export economy,” said CBP Area Port Director for Baltimore Dianna Bowman. “Protecting America’s agricultural resources is of paramount concern to CBP, and it’s a mission that our agriculture specialists take very serious.”

Dulles specialists found four live adults, 12 live larvae, and several dead larvae and cast skins Jan. 24 in rice a Washington resident brought from Saudi Arabia. BWI specialists found two live adults, one dead immature larva, and several cast skins Feb. 23 in cow peas a New York City resident brought from Nigeria.

The food was incinerated.

Photo shows Khapra beetle
Khapra beetles can survive for a long time without food. They are among the most destructive insects. In 1953, an eradication in California cost $11 million. Today that would be $90 million. (Courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

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