Ag specialists intercept first-in-nation pest at Calexico port of entry

Ag specialists intercept first-in-nation pest at Calexico port of entry
Aug 29, 2022

Inspectors found a species of leafhopper in a shipment of vegetables

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists recently discovered a pest never seen in the United States.

On July 26, border agents at the Calexico East Cargo Facilty in Calexico, Calif., intercepted a shipment of vegetables from Mexico and referred it to the ag specialists for a second look.

Upon their inspection, the ag specialists discovered a tiny insect.

“During an intensive inspection, a live adult Hemiptera specimen, tentatively identified as Cicadellidae, was found by agriculture specialists in the shipment of celery,” CBP said in an Aug. 26 statement.

Further identification confirmed the pest as Kunzeana versicolora (Cicadellidae).

There are more than 30 species in the Kunzeana genus of leafhoppers, and this discovery marks the first time the veriscolora has been found in the U.S.

Entomologists Robert Ruppel and Dwight DeLong discovered the veriscolora in 1951.

Pests in the leafhopper family feed on multiple crops including soybeans, apples, potatoes and eggplant.

The insects suck sap out of the plants and cause them to develop pale specks. Some leafhopper species can also carry pathogens which cause plant disease.

The CBP ag specialists refused the shipment entry into the U.S.

The vegetables and the truck they arrived on were returned to Mexico.

Earlier in August, CBP ag inspectors at another port of entry intercepted suspicious food items.

Specialists at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, N.Y. examined a shipment from China and found more than 1,200 pounds of olives, 40 pounds of Mooncakes and nearly 2,600 pounds of clams.

China is currently affected by multiple illnesses including African Swine Fever, Classical Swine Fever and Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.

As a result, the shipment from China was denied access into the U.S. and was destroyed.

“CBP Agriculture Specialists are the first line of defense to prevent the introduction of animal diseases that have the potential to cause significant damage to the Nation’s agricultural economy,” Frank Russo, director of field operations with the New York field office, said in a statement.

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