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CBP ag specialists busy keeping U.S. food and agriculture safe

CBP ag specialists busy keeping U.S. food and agriculture safe

Inspectors recently intercepted pests in ag shipments

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists intercepted multiple packages recently containing potential threats to U.S. agriculture.

Ag specialists at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas discovered pests and plant diseases on a shipment of flowers, CBP reported on July 13.

The packages from India contained fresh flowers – chrysanthemum and jasmine.

On the jasmine flowers, inspectors found live lepidoptera larvae.

USDA testing confirmed the pest to be Hendecasis duplifascialis Hampson, also known as the jasmine bud worm.

These pests feed on the inner content of the bud and make tunnels to move into other buds of the same shoot. Infested flowers turn a violet color before falling off the plant.

This discovery was a first in port, meaning it’s the first time this pest has been found at the Austin-Bergstrom location.

On the chrysanthemum plants, inspectors found white rust and more lepidoptera larvae.

USDA confirmed the white rust as chrysanthemum white rust, a disease native to Japan but has been established in Africa, Australia, Europe and South America.

A USDA entomologist confirmed the larvae on the chrysanthemum flowers to be Helicoverpa sp, Noctuidae, also known as the cotton bollworm or corn earworm.

CBP specialists used steam sterilization to ensure these pests are no longer a threat to U.S. ag.

“The dangers of agricultural pests and plant diseases entering the US and affecting our agriculture and economy is real and imminent,” Richard Mendez, port director, Port of Austin, said in a statement. “The work our CBP agriculture specialists carry out is so important. They intercept and prevent dangerous pests, and plant and animal diseases from entering the US and threating our nation’s agriculture, our natural resources, and our economy.”

In May and June, CBP ag specialists in California discovered pests on two different occasions.

On June 22, a shipment of rambutan fruit arrived from Mexico at the Otay Mesa Cargo Facility in San Diego where ag specialists discovered three Pseudococcidae specimens, also known as mealybugs.

These pests damage plants by sucking sap from roots, which can result in yellowing leaves, stunting or plant death. They can also act as a vector for multiple plant diseases including coca swollen shoot virus and banana streak virus.

And on May 29, specialists at the Otay Mesa location found a pest in a flower shipment from Mexico.

USDA testing confirmed the pest as Dihammaphora hispida, a member of the longhorn beetle family.

This pest, like many in the longhorn beetle family, feed on stems, trunks and roots of plants and trees.

On a typical day, CBP ag specialists intercept about 264 pests and 2,548 materials for quarantine. This includes plant, meat, animal byproduct and soil.

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