Customs agents intercept invasive insects at Charleston port

Customs agents intercept invasive insects at Charleston port
CBP at Charleston seaport intercepted this round-headed bore pest. (Source: CBP)
CBP at Charleston seaport intercepted this round-headed bore pest. (Source: CBP)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Customs agents intercepted two species of invasive insects that were discovered from a recent shipment into the Charleston port.

Officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection say the species were found on a freight which arrived in late April from Italy.

The two species were identified as the long-horned beetle larvae, commonly called "round-headed bores," and the globular springtail.

"The insects, in various stages of growth including larvae and adults, were discovered nestled into wood pallets and plastic wrap in a shipment of wine destined for a South Carolina based distributor," CBP officials said.

Agents found the insects during an operation focused on snails. While there were no snails found in any of the shipments, agents found the insects and various "less significant violations" instead.

According to authorities, if the non-native insects were to enter the South Carolina environment and establish themselves, they could do "grave damage to hardwood trees and native plants, fungi, and algae."

CBP officials said when the long-horned beetle larvae is introduced to a new environment, they can cause extensive damage to living trees and untreated lumber or wood used in buildings and other structures.

"South Carolina is at particular risk for hardwood tree-damaging insects – a 2017 South Carolina Forestry Commission report indicated that forestry is among the state's most significant industries with $21 billion in annual economic output," officials said.

According to a report, this species' close relative, the Asian Long-Horned Beetle, has already infested areas in Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio at great financial and resource expense to those areas.

The globular springtails consume native plants, fungi and algae, causing plant damage and stripping environments of food sources usually reserved for native species.

"When the public thinks of CBP, preventing terrorism and the unlawful entry of people and things usually comes to mind," said Charleston Acting Area Port Director Joanne Fogg. "Our agriculture mission addresses a special type of illegal entry – the kind initiated by invasive pests that can do billions of dollars of damage to our environment, agriculture, and economy."

CBP worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Clemson University Department of Plant Industry and North Carolina Department of Agriculture on the operation.

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