A beetle ranked among "one of the top 100 most feared pests in the world" was recently found in a bag of rice and intercepted at the O'Hare Airport before it could reach its destination of India.
NBC Chicago reports that Chicago Customs and Border Protection identified the Khapra beetle in rice shipped amongst clothing, pots and pans Aug. 16. In the two bags of rice, cast skin and larvae were found and sent to entomologists before the beetle was correctly identified as the tiny beetle, which is known for being destructive and tenacious.
This is reportedly the fourth time this year in which O'Hare inspectors have found the beetle amongst agricultural shipments coming into the airport from overseas, the Chicago Tribune reports, and the beetle is being found more and more nationally. Through mid-April of this year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercepted 44 of the dangerous beetles -- already more than the total of interceptions during the entire year of 2010. As recently as five years ago, in 2005 and 2006, interceptions of the same beetle at U.S. ports of entry hovered between three and six annually.
Though it might appear that the beetles are showing up at alarmingly increasing rates, it is more likely that inspectors are getting better at finding them, which could partially explain the increase. Per a CBP release:
"Trend analysis clearly showed the increasing pathway for Khapra Beetles to enter the U.S.,” said Thomas S. Winkowski, assistant commissioner for CBP field operations. “We saw the need for training, developed it with the help of U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and deployed it immediately to the field where it was needed.”
The Khapra beetle originated in South Asia and is now present in much of the Middle East and North Africa. As the Chicago Sun-Times reports, the beetles are difficult to kill and infestations of the beetle can lead to up to 70 percent damage to grain. If digested, the beetle can cause diarrhea and vomiting.