U.S. finds Asian gypsy moth eggs on vessel from Japan
Moths could have been a 'major threat' to U.S. forests had the ship not been inspected and the eggs removed.
Tue, Aug 16, 2011 at 06:26 PM
LOS ANGELES — U.S. customs agents have removed masses of eggs of the "voracious" Asian gypsy moth that had infested a vessel headed into California from Japan, officials said Tuesday.
The pests, if introduced to the United States, "would pose a major threat of defoliation and deterioration to forest habitats" across the country, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.
The vessel, which was headed to the Los Angeles-Long Beach seaport earlier this month, was found to have 24 "egg masses" in the gangway, tucked under pipes, and on the main deck. One dead adult Asian gypsy moth was also found.
The eggs were removed before their hatching, in which they emerge as caterpillars. It is in this stage that they cause all of the species' damage, "as they feed their voracious appetite during this active period of growth."
The ship — which was forced to wait in international waters until tests were conducted on the egg specimens — was later reinspected and found to be pest-free, the statement said.
U.S. customs officials often partner with agricultural agencies to "identify and eliminate threats to our agriculture and forest resources from the accidental or intentional introduction of harmful insect pests," noted customs official Todd Owen.
On average last year, Owen's office said, U.S. customs officials submitted evidence of 539 pest interceptions per day to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Copyright 2011 AFP Global Edition