‘Squashbug’ nabbed at Baltimore Harbor

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You won’t see his picture on the wall at any post office, but Gonocerus acuteangulatus might be more dangerous than Billy the Kid.

That’s why he was arrested trying to sneak into the U.S. and swiftly received a death sentence.

A sharp-eyed U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialist spotted the bug-eyed villain at the Baltimore Harbor, hiding in a shipping container of ceramic tiles aboard a ship from Italy. It was the first local discovery of the critter in a shipping container.

Gonocerus acuteangulatus — known to his friends as “squashbug” — is a species of leaf-footed bug known to occur in Europe that has only been reported 14 times in the U.S. It could pose a serious threat to the yields of American wheat and hazelnut harvests. It is also known to feed on boxwood, hawthorne, buckthorn, yew and plum trees.

“This first in port discovery mitigates another new and potentially destructive threat to America’s agriculture and to our economy,” said Ricardo Scheller, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) port director for the Port of Baltimore. “It is also further testimony to the diligence exercised by Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists every day to detect and intercept invasive insects at our nation’s borders.”

The shipment was destined for Eldersburg, Md. CBP issued an Emergency Action Notification to the importer requiring the shipment to be re-exported or destroyed.

The importer plans to fumigate.

Upon Friday’s discovery of the bug, CBP forwarded the specimen to a USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine entomologist for identification. CBP agriculture specialists work closely with USDA to protect the nation’s agriculture resources against the introduction of foreign plant pests and animal diseases.

CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection. On a typical day, they inspect tens of thousands of international air passengers, and air and sea cargoes nationally being imported to the United States and seize 4,291 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 470 insect pests.

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