May 6, 2009

Invasive caterpillars intercepted

Agricultural inspectors say a shipment of Chinese fencing infested with caterpillars led to other invasive pests in U.S. imports from the same supplier.

The caterpillars were discovered several months ago at the port of Seattle, the Seattle Times reported. Customs and Border Protection inspectors said they were present in unusual numbers.

They were everywhere, said Luca Furnare, one of the inspectors. Usually you might actually see a few. But there were so many of them in this case they started crawling away.

The caterpillars were from a species that could have destroyed plants and trees, including agricultural crops, if they had gotten loose.

The find triggered a hold on other U.S. shipments from the same source. Inspectors discovered gall midges, which can destroy wheat, larvae of the Noctuidae moth, which eats lettuce plants in its cutworm phase, and striped rice borers, a beetle that eats rice.

The importer has agreed to find another source of fencing.