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October 23, 2015

Five destructive insect species, one first-in-nation, intercepted in Philadelphia

Longhorned beetle species discovered in container of melons from Costa Rica

Agriculture specialists with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Philadelphia recently intercepted five species of insect pests, including one beetle that had never been previously reported in the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday.

The discoveries came as inspectors screened containers of Costa Rica melons and pineapples from Brazil and Colombia over the past several months, according to the release.

In March, specialists intercepted the Steirastoma histrionica (Cerambycidae), a longhorned beetle species, in a container of melons imported from Costa Rica. The species was identified September 21 by USDA entomologists, who noted the species is a significant threat to coniferous and deciduous forests.

The agriculture specialists, who have extensive training in the biological sciences, risk analysis and imported agriculture inspection techniques, are considered the nation's first line of defense when it comes to protecting agriculture, livestock and forest industries from exotic plant pests and animal diseases.

In addition to the longhorned beetle, four other interecepted species were the first of their kind reported in the Delaware Valley.

• Paulinia (Acrididae), a grasshopper species that threatens grains, pasture and vegetable crops, was discovered in Colombian pineapples.

• Donus zoilus (Circulionidae), a species of clover leaf weevil that feeds on clover and alfalfa, was discovered in Costa Rica pineapples

• Limnobaris calandriformis (Curculionidae), a true weevil species that is a pest to palms and a potential red-ring disease vector, was found in Costa Rica pineapples.

• Parandra (Cerambycidae), a wood borers species that attacks and kills live trees, was found in a shipment of steel coils and plates from Brazil in May.

“Intercepting these destructive insect invaders at our nation’s borders before they can threaten our agriculture industries is of paramount importance to Customs and Border Protection,” said Susan Stranieri, CBP Port Director for the Area Port of Philadelphia. “CBP agriculture specialists take their job very serious, and recording these ‘first in nation’ and ‘first in port’ insect interceptions are significant discoveries.”

Nationally, on any given day CBP agriculture specialists inspect over 1 million people, air and sea cargo imported to the United States, interception an average of 4,447 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products. About 425 agricultural pests and diseases are intercepted every day.

Learn more about the CBP's agricultural protection mission here.