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Border specialists intercept ag pests

Border specialists intercept ag pests

Shipments of grapes and pumpkins contained seed bugs and cucumber moths

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Two potentially dangerous crop pests didn’t get a chance to establish themselves in America, thanks to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists.

Between Oct. 5 and Oct. 7, inspectors found an Ochrostomus sp. (Lygaeidae), commonly referred to as a seed bug, in a shipment of Brazilian grapes, and Diaphania sp., known as a cucumber moth, in a shipment of Costa Rican pumpkins.

The discoveries happened at the ports of Philadelphia, Pa. and Wilmington, Del.

The seed bug discovery is a first for the Delaware port, meaning the insect represented a new local pest threat.

These insects are known to eat crops including tomatoes, cotton, tobacco and grapes.

As the name implies, the bug feeds on seeds or “portions of the plant that give a high nutrient return,” a 2014 study says.

The cucumber moth feeds on members of the cucurbit family.

These include watermelon, cucumber, pumpkins and melons.

Cucumber moth caterpillars “attack the flowers and reduce the number of fruits set,” says.

The caterpillars will also feed on young fruit, damaging the skin and causing them to rot.

Keeping pests like these out of the country helps ensure America’s food supply is safe.

CBP ag specialists “are on the frontline against the extraordinary threat posed by invasive and highly pathogenic animal and plant diseases that threaten our economic security,” Casey Durst, director of field operations for CBP’s field office in Baltimore, said in a statement.

The ports of Philadelphia and Wilmington are among the busiest in the country.

Seaports in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey rank first in the country for imported produce for 17 products including apples, grapes, bananas and oranges.

The Port of Philadelphia itself is the nation’s leader in beef imports from Australia and New Zealand. The port handles about 639 million pounds of beef each year, worth almost $2 billion.

CBP photo

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