‘Destructive pests’ from the Caribbean enter US

The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency says agriculture specialists (CBPAS) at two south Florida ports of entry have intercepted two “destructive pests” from the Caribbean within commercial produce shipments.

“Our nation’s food supply is constantly at risk from pests not known to occur in the U.S. These two significant pest interceptions by our CBPAS in Port Everglades and Miami International Airport exemplify CBP’s continued commitment to safeguarding American agriculture,” said Director, Field Operations Vernon Foret, Miami Field Office.

CBP said on Tuesday that the more recent interception occurred last November at Port Everglades.

It said a CBPAS, conducting an intensive examination on a mixed commodity shipment from the Dominican Republic, discovered a larva.

After submission of the pest for identification at a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Washington, it was confirmed that the pest is Helicoverpa sp. Later DNA sequencing identified the pest as Helicoverpa armigera, Old World Bollworm (OWB), “a pest not known to occur in the U.S.,” CBP said.

“Given the pest finding, the shipment was detained for fumigation,” it said.

The other interception occurred last October at Miami International Airport, CBP said.

It said a CBPAS examining a commercial shipment of Jamaican green peppers from the Dominican Republic encountered a live larva.

After an initial identification at the USDA Miami Plant Inspection Station, the pest was identified as Helicoverpa sp., and sent to a USDA lab in Washington for further analysis, CBP said.

On Dec. 19, the DNA sample of the insect was identified as Helicpverpa armigera Old World Bollworm (OWB), CBP said.

It said OWB is a moth of the Lepidoptera family, which feeds on over 180 species of wild and cultivated plants in more than 45 families.

“In most places where OWB occurs, it is considered a severe economic pest,” CBP said. “Due to the pest discovery, CBP detained the shipment and referred it to USDA for fumigation.”

CBP said Helicoverpa armigera is a ”pest of great significance” that is commonly intercepted from Europe, Asia and Africa.

“This pest has been intercepted on multiple occasions from these regions,” CBP said. “What makes these recent interceptions from the Caribbean significant is that this serious pest is now in our part of the world and spreading closer to Florida.”

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