Dreadful Beetle Sneaks Into US From India in Rice

And if it establishes itself here, we're in trouble
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 26, 2011 5:24 PM CDT
This undated photo released by U.S. Customs and Border Control shows a khapra beetle larva, found in a bag of dried of beans at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.   (AP Photo/U.S. Customs and Border Control)
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(Newser) – Finally, an airline inspection process we can all give the thumbs up to: US Customs and Border Patrol intercepted damaging khapra beetle larvae at O'Hare last week, which had traveled from India in bags of rice. It's an event that's been happening much more frequently, reports the AP. The khapra beetle was intercepted in the US 100 times in the first six months of this year; in 2009, there were only about 15 such instances. And it's a stat that's not just rising: It's worrisome.

That's because the 2- to 3-millimeter long beetle ravages crops, damaging up to 70% of grain. Worse, it's difficult to kill: It's resistant to chemicals, can go for long stretches with no food and water, and can hide in small cracks. When the beetle was discovered in California in 1953, it took 13 years and millions of dollars to eradicate it. Should it set up shop here again, it would "disrupt our economy," says a Customs rep, who noted that countries currently rely on the fact that "they are getting a clean product" from us. Customs officials last month announced a quarantine on rice imported from countries infested by the beetle.

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