CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Agents with the United States Customs and Border Patrol say they recently stumbled upon a historical discovery while investigating a beetle infestation at the Port of Charleston.
According to CBP officials, an investigation into previous Khapra Beetle infestations resulted in the discovery of a rare "soft tick" known to be prevalent in Africa, southern Europe, in the Middle East, and across south-central Asia.
Spokesman Stephen Switzer said it all started when a shipment of work gloves from Pakistan was held for agriculture inspection due to previous Khapra Beetle infestations. This time, however, examination of the shipment determined that it was actually free from beetles.
However, upon further inspection, a CBP agriculture specialist saw something on the exterior of the shipping carton. The adult tick, approximately one quarter inch in size, was collected for identification. A few days later, after traveling to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, the specimen was identified as "Argasidae," a family of ticks containing the "soft ticks."
According to the laboratory's entomologist, "This species of tick is a bird parasite that occurs widely in Africa, southern Europe, the Middle East and across south-central Asia. Pigeons are the primary hosts for this tick, but it also feeds on domestic fowl and a limited variety of wild birds. Information about the disease relationships of this genus are limited, however, West Nile Virus has been found in this tick, and it may be an overwintering vector of that virus in the Middle East. Soft ticks, especially Argas, only rarely are imported in commerce, and we even more rarely see them for identification."
This is considered by the USDA to be a first-time interception of this tick in a maritime port in the United States.
Because of this significant interception, action was required by CBP to eliminate the risk of introduction of this species in the United States. Exportation of the infested shipment has been ordered.