The gypsy moth feeds on multiple species of trees
By Diego Flammini
Asian gypsy moth egg masses found on the vessel.
Federal inspectors turned away a vessel arriving from China after discovering egg masses belonging to a potentially invasive pest.
On Aug. 12, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) ag inspectors intercepted a Panamanian bulk carrier in Laplace, La.
CBP boarded and inspected the vessel because it made stops at ports with high risk of Asian gypsy moths.
These insects feed on more than 500 plant species including fruit trees, and cause defoliation which can stunt or kill young trees.
Upon inspection, the ag specialists discovered four egg masses on the ship.
CBP received confirmation on Oct. 11 that the egg masses belonged to Asian gypsy moths.
European gypsy moths are already established in the U.S.
The Asian variety have a much broader host range compared to its European counterpart, which is already established in the U.S. And the female Asian moth can lay hundreds of eggs at a time.
Asian gypsy moth
Therefore, the federal inspectors took no chances.
“Today’s European gypsy moth infestation came from a release of captive moths in Massachusetts 150 years ago, so yes, we’ll turn around a 740-foot bulk carrier over 4 tiny egg masses.” Terri Edwards, area port director of New Orleans, said in a statement.
Ag inspectors conducted a follow-up inspection one week later, found no egg masses and allowed the vessel to continue operations.
At least one U.S. state has had to act because of gypsy moth populations.
In 2020, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee issued an emergency proclamation because of Asian gypsy moths.
"This imminent danger of infestation seriously endangers the agricultural and horticultural industries of the state of Washington and seriously threatens the economic well-being and quality of life of state residents," the proclamation said.