(Reuters) — U.S. customs officials said Wednesday they had found a beetle considered one of the world’s most dangerous agricultural pests in a shipment of rice arriving at Los Angeles International Airport.
Agricultural specialists with U.S. Customs and Border Protection found an adult khapra beetle, eight larvae and a shed skin in a shipment of Indian rice from Saudi Arabia last week, spokesman Jaime Ruiz said.
The khapra beetle, which is native to India and not currently established in the U.S., is considered one of the most destructive pests of grain products and seeds.
“It is endemic to several countries and the reason it is very dangerous is that its life cycle is very long and it goes into all kinds of food grains,” Naveeda Mirza, agriculture program manager for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told Reuters.
“It has several dormant stages. It can go dormant for a long time and then become active again. It’s very, very hard to get rid of and that’s why it’s very dangerous,” Mirza said. “It is one of the top 10 most dangerous pests not established here.”
The khapra beetle can also survive for long periods of time without food and is resistant to insecticides and fumigants.
The rice was found in a box of food and personal effects being sent from one person to another, Mirza said.
The shipment was immediately quarantined and safeguarded, then destroyed under U.S. Customs and Border Protection supervision, Mirza said.
According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture website, in 1953 an extensive infestation of khapra beetle was found in California, prompting a massive eradication effort.
Last March, Customs and Border Protection officials in Detroit found a khapra beetle in a shipment of tile from China.
— Dan Whitcomb writes for Reuters from Los Angeles.
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CLARIFICATION FROM SOURCE, Jan. 6: The original version of this article incorrectly stated a khapra beetle had been found in Detroit in a load of tile from China “earlier this year.”