Invasive moth species intercepted at Seagirt terminal
Wednesday, 21 May 2014 13:01

First of its kind found in the United States

by Bill Gates

    It was not exactly Mothra. But the tiny winged insect discovered at the Seagirt Marine Terminal earlier this month still posed a serious threat.
    (Yes, Mothra is generally considered a benevolent monster who fights to protect humanity. But, friendly or not, it is still a moth with a 250-meter wingspan.)
    The moth discovered on May 2 in a shipment of bulk organic soybeans from China was the first of its kind ever found in the United States — and it was promptly shown the door.
    Known as Nemapogon gersimovi (it apparently does not have a cute non-science name like Gypsy Moth or Annoying Moth that eats your Old Clothes), the species is considered a significant agricultural threat because it is known to feed on seeds and grains, thus reducing a farmer’s yield.
    The discovery was made  by agricultural specialists with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations.
  

A U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist confirmed the identity of the bug on Thursday.
    “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 Andrii Melnyk, acting CBP 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 agricultural specialists protect this vital American industry.”
    The moth was discovered in a 50,000-pound shipment of bulk organic soybeans from China  that was slated for shipment to Pennsylvania to be used as animal feed.
    The insect was forwarded to a USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine entomologist for identification.
    The CBP then issued an Emergency Action Notification to the importer, requiring the shipment to be re-exported or destroyed. The importer chose to re-export the shipment.
    “Our agricultural specialists use a systematic hands-on approach where they take samples of the bulk grain at different intervals and depths in the container,” said CBP spokesman Robert Hunt. “They then sift through samples looking for pests. They also look at the outside of the container and the surrounding area.”
    It is a much more difficult and demanding task than finding Mothra, whose arrival is usually announced by a pair of cute, tiny twin women.