Unwelcome visitor turns up at the ports of LA and Long Beach

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Back in the day, mobs of excited fans greeted the Beatles when they arrived in these parts. Not now – customs officials at the Ports of LA and Long Beach are frowning at the latest beetle to show up in the Southland.

It’s not just because the name — strongylaspis corticarius — is an unsavory mouthful. It’s because the critter itself is an unwelcome pest. Customs agents who discovered the beetle in cargo say it’s a serious agricultural threat.

The bug turned up last month in a shipment of Costa Rican pineapples, and it’s taken entomologists a few weeks to identify. Nobody in the United States has seen one for 20 years, when a specimen surfaced in Miami. The beetle is a wood borer that agricultural experts say could threaten the domestic timber industry.

Unwanted guests like this are nothing new in Southland sea and airports; this fiscal year customs inspectors have intercepted about 8,500 pests. Half of them belong to invasive species.