Investigation widens into dangerous insect found at border

LEWISTON, N.Y. (WIVB) — Federal authorities are working with their Canadian counterparts trying to figure out what led to a disturbing discovery at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge late last month.

It’s a mystery that goes beyond our border. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists found the live Khapra beetle larvae inside the door of a shipping container that originated in China.

Doug Zahno, CPB chief agriculture specialist, says he and his coworkers undergo weeks of rigorous training to spot the microscopic danger. “Everything we’re looking for is very small. We’re using magnifying glasses to determine if there are any pests there and microscopes to determine what the pests are,” he told News 4.

The larvae and the beetle itself are only three millimeter in length. Yet, the small pest has earned a dangerous distinction of the being the world’s most destructive insect.

“It lives a long time with little food or water. It’s very destructive to the grain products, a lot of the products we grow throughout the whole United States. Economically, it could be devastating,” Zahno concluded.

News 4 also spoke with USDA Khapra Beetle program manager Adly Ibrahim. “We understand the commodity originated in China, went to Thailand, and then went to Canada in July,” he said.

Ibrahim says specialists are working with the CFIA, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, to see where the infestation started. “We are working with our counterpart in Canada, our trading partner, to see if that warehouse is infected, or if that new container used to transport that commodity was a dirty container.”

Khapra beetle outbreaks are relatively rare in the U.S. and most are quickly eradicated. Ibrahim remembers one in the early 1990’s in Baltimore, Maryland which cost $25 million to eradicate.

The beetle is listed on the USDA’s Hungry Pests website, and it’s listed as a “Pest to Watch for in New York state.” The USDA also reports the following countries are infested with the Khapra beetle:

Afghanistan
Algeria
Bangladesh
Burkina Faso (Upper Volta)
Cyprus
Egypt
India
Iran
Iraq
Israel
Libya
Mali
Mauritania
Morocco
Myanmar (Burma)
Niger
Nigeria
Pakistan
Saudi Arabia
Senegal
Sri Lanka
Sudan
Syria
Tunisia
Turkey
United Arab Emirates

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