Photo of the illegal insect Toxoptera odinae, also known as van der Goot courtesy of aphidweb.com
U.S. Customs inspectors at Los Angeles International Airport intercepted and destroyed a highly aggressive plant-jumping bug with the potential to ravage the state's agriculture industry, officials announced today.
The tiny rust-colored pest was identified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as Toxoptera odinae Van Der Goot, an insect from the aphids group, never seen before in the United States.
Aphids attack grains, fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants causing plant deformities, scarring and loss of crops.
Agriculture specialists assigned to LAX discovered the bug last week in a shipment of fresh-cut flowers arriving from South Africa, said Jaime Ruiz of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
"This species could be devastating to California's agriculture,'' Ruiz said. "It's a very aggressive little bug. They are plant jumpers, and at some point they develop wings and spread all over.''
The pest was destroyed and prevented from establishing a stronghold in the United States, Ruiz said.
On a typical day, U.S, Customs inspectors intercept about 450 pests and seize more than 4,000 prohibited plant, meat and animal byproducts.
"Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists have a critical mission to prevent the introduction of harmful pests and diseases from entering the country,'' said Carlos C. Martel of the CBP. "We take an aggressive approach in detecting and stopping threats to American agriculture.''
KPCC wire services contributed to this report