LOS ANGELES – A vessel arriving at Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport from Japan was ordered out of U.S.waters when U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists and officers detected 24 Asian gypsy moth (AGM) egg masses last week.
CBP agriculture specialists and officers boarded the vessel and found one egg mass at the gangway, another egg mass forward of the superstructure under the pipes, 12 egg masses from the superstructure, 10 egg masses from the main deck and hatches, and one dead adult moth.
Although the AGM has never become established inNorth America, an introduction of it into theU.S.would pose a major threat of defoliation and deterioration to forest habitats.
“CBP is at the frontline of our borders to prevent the entry of such pests and takes an aggressive approach with inspection, isolation and exclusion of contaminated ships. CBP partners with other agricultural agencies to identify and eliminate threats to our agriculture and forest resources from the accidental or intentional introduction of harmful insect pests,” said Director of Los Angeles Field Operations Todd C. Owen.
The AGM specimens were submitted, on August 8, to local U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologists and then to its laboratory. DNA testing confirmed the identification via molecular analysis of the egg masses, a couple days later.
The AGM, Lymantria dispar strain Linneaus (Lymantriidae) named for its home continent, has four life stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupae (cocoon), and moth. Egg masses, the most likely life stage to be found on a vessel, are extremely hardy and their tolerance of temperature and moisture extremes enhances the risk of spread. Eggs hatch into caterpillars which cause all of the damage done by the AGM, as they feed their voracious appetite during this active period of growth.
Due to the high number and locations of the AGM egg masses, the ship’s agent was given two choices: immediately send the vessel foreign or move it to international waters for safeguarding until final confirmation of the pests’ preliminary identification. The agent opted for the latter and while out ofU.S.waters, the egg masses were removed and the vessel was treated. The vessel was re-inspected on August 12 by CBP agriculture specialists and found to be free of pests.
On a typical day in fiscal year 2010, CBP submitted 539 pest interceptions to USDA at ports of entry.