Nasty Beetle Stopped at Detroit Customs
Suspicious border control agents in Detroit, armed with a broom and dustpan, discovered a dangerous stowaway in a railway container: a khapra beetle.
The beetles, 1/32 of an inch long, are considered one of the world's 100-worst invasive species.
If not caught, the beetles can multiply quickly in stored items such as crackers, wheat, flour and baby cereal. Humans who swallow beetle body parts or hairs, or come into skin contact with the hairs of the beetle, can develop skin irritations and gastric problems.
There have been two outbreaks of the beetle in the United States, a major one in the early 1950s and a smaller one in 1980. Each time, it was successfully eradicated.
An agent looking for wood-boring pests in a container of tile from China spotted a suspicious speck in dust on the container floor, said Ronald Smith, chief of Customs and Border Protection in Detroit. The container was first flagged for inspection in International Falls, Minn.
"The khapra beetle is something we're always looking for," he said. Under a microscope, the agent's suspicions were confirmed. The creature is now on display in the agency's laboratory, Smith said.