Bad beetle busted at Indianapolis airport
One tiny beetle's terror halted by USA Customs Border Patrol.
Monday, July 25, 2011 - 21:43
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Indianapolis — the Crossroads of America — meets all kinds of characters on their way to someplace else. Some are more visible than others and need to be sniffed out.
Customs Border Patrol (CBP) inspectors at Indianapolis International Airport were just doing their job in the FedEx Express hub on July 6 when they spotted an invasive bug with a voracious appetite for corn, wheat, rice and other grains. Left unchecked, the beetle could have taken up residence in grain silos and destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of grain. If eaten, they would cause vomiting and diarrhea. They are almost impossible to kill and thrive anywhere in warehouses and home pantries.
Fortunately, inspectors recognized the tiny, hairy, ugly Khapra beetle, Trogoderma granarium everts, a global destroyer and one of the top 100 feared bugs. It originated in South Asia and is now present throughout much of northern Africa and the Middle East. The beetle is also somewhat present in Asia, Europe and southern Africa.
The Indianapolis inspectors found two live, immature Khapra beetles in a small plastic bag of barley seeds in a passenger's personal belongings from India. The shipment was en route to an individual in North Carolina. The bag of barley seeds was destroyed.
The inspection doesn't stop at the airport. Pests are sent on to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Protection and Quarantine entomologists and to the Systematic Entomology Laboratory, USDA in Washington, D.C.
The CBP is an agency of the Department of Homeland Security in charge of protecting the United States borders at official ports of entry. They are charged with keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the country and enforcing U.S. laws.
Who knew a tiny little beetle could be such a formidable foe?
Obviously, the CBP did. So far Indiana has been kept safe from this bug's appetite. Khapras were also discovered in spring 2011 by CBP in Detroit, Port Huron and Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. In 1953 this nasty beetle cost California and other Americans millions of dollars over a span of 13 years. It is very hard to kill.
If you're not too squeamish, pictures of this beetle can be found at the Indiana Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) website.
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