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Larvae of destructive beetle found at port

September 16, 2011 |  5:02 pm

A giant shipment of rice that arrived last week from India is being sent back after U.S. customs officials detected the presence of the Khapra beetle, a destructive grain and seed pest, in the 20-foot-long container.

It is the fourth time the beetle has turned up at the Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex this year, and the 145th interception at a U.S. port of entry in 2011, compared with just 37 last year and an average of 15 or fewer in previous years.

The Khapra, whose scientific name is Trogoderma granarium Everts, is considered one of the world’s most destructive pests. Officials said it could be financially devastating if it established a foothold in the U.S.

The beetle feeds on stored grain, grain products, dried plants and animal products, including dog food. It can survive without food for long periods, requires little water and is able to hide in tiny cracks and crevices. It can also tolerate many insecticides and fumigants.

In the 1960s, California spent millions of dollars to eradicate a Khapra beetle infestation in the state.

In recent months, there has been a nationwide surge in detection of the beetle, officials said. In this case, officials didn’t even find a beetle: They detected dead larvae on the outer seam of a bag of rice. But that was enough for them to box the whole container back up, seal it and await further testing, which came back positive.

The beetle is known to be prevalent in Afghanistan, Egypt and India, among other places.


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