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One Of World's 'Most Feared Pests' Keeps Showing Up At Customs

The Khapra beetle. If you see one, tell the authorities.
The Khapra beetle. If you see one, tell the authorities.

This headline from the Chicago Tribunegot our attention:

'Most feared' pest found in shipment at O'Hare.

According to the story, "a cast skin and larva" later identified as Khapra beetles were discovered in two 10-pound bags of rice last week.

As we looked around to learn more about this destructive bug, we discovered that U.S. Customs and Border Protection says:

-- "The Khapra Beetle, Trogoderma granarium Everts, is one of the world's most destructive stored-product pests. It is difficult to control once introduced into a region because it feeds on a variety of dried materials, is resistant to insecticides, and can go long periods without food. Infestations can result in up to 70 percent grain damage, making products inedible and unmarketable."

-- It "originated in South Asia and is now present throughout much of northern Africa and the Middle East, with a limited presence in Asia, Europe, and southern Africa."

-- By April this year, "agriculture specialists [had] made 44 Khapra Beetle interceptions. This is more than the total interceptions in calendar year 2010."

Indeed, in recent weeks there have been stories from Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New Jersey and other ports of entry into the U.S. about Khapra Beetle discoveries.

And the number of interceptions has continued to rise. "This year, CBP agriculture specialists have made 100 Khapra beetle interceptions at U.S. ports of entry compared to three to six per year in 2005 and 2006, and averaging about 15 per year from 2007 to 2009," reports the High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal.

TheBaltimore Sun adds that Customs and Border Protection agricultural inspector David Ng told the newspaper the beetle's destructive ways are so serious that inspectors don't need to find a live one to reject an entire shipment of rice or any other product. All they need is to find evidence that the bug's been there. Ng said no other species is treated that way.

Beatle mania is one thing. This beetle apparently isn't something we want to welcome.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.