A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist confirmed Wednesday that agriculture specialists from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the Port of Baltimore made a first-in-nation pest discovery when they intercepted a live insect known as Chaetocnema breviuscula (Chrysomelidae), a beet flea beetle, while inspecting ceramic tile from Italy.
This jumping beetle chews little holes in the leaves of crops. Young plants suffer badly and normally die.
“Keeping this pest out of the nation saves the American agricultural industry from the expense of eradication, and the hardship of finding their crops damaged by a new danger,” said Dianna Bowman, CBP Area Port Director for the Port of Baltimore. “By stopping destructive species at the border, before they can enter the United States for the first time, CBP officers and agriculture specialists protect this vital American industry.”
The beetle was discovered November 12 at the Baltimore Seaport. The specimen was then forwarded to a USDA entomologist for identification. On November 25, USDA confirmed that this was the first identification of this species in the United States.
CBP Agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agriculture inspection. On a typical day, they inspect more than one million people as well as air and sea cargo imported to the United States, and they intercept 4,447 prohibited plant materials or animal products, including 425 agriculture pests.