Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Khapra Beetle Lands at O'Hare Airport

An adult Khapra beetle. Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

One of the world's "most feared" pests was discovered on American soil. The Khapra beetle, in larva stage, was identified by customs officials in a 10-pound bag of rice that came from India.

In a press release, Customs and Border Protection described the bug as "one of the world's most tenacious and destructive stored-produce pests because of its ability to damage grain."

The larvae of the Khapra beetle. No wonder they are hard to find - they look so similar to rice grains. Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

The beetles originated in South Asia but have invaded parts of northern Africa, the Middle East, and even Europe, Asia and South Africa.

The Khapra beetle first invaded California in 1953. The infestation was not eradicated until 1966, at a cost of $15 million.

Customs specialists have intercepted the beetle 100 times this year, "compared to three to six per year in 2005 and 2006, and averaging about 15 per year from 2007 to 2009," the press release says.

The Baltimore Sun reports that grain shipments do not even require a live beetle for the entire supply to be rejected. No other species is treated this way.

Despite the increase in the number stopped at the border, the Khapra beetle has not made it into the American grain supply.

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