Hitchhiking pest found in banana shipment

GULFPORT —Customs and Border Protection said the insect is part of a species that feeds on vegetation, stems and leaves "of a multitude of plants." In other words, had the insect gotten into the U.S. through Gulfport, it eventually could have spread and devoured plants.

Officials at Customs and Border Protection declined to identify the shipper or fruit company involved, or the size of the banana shipment in which the pests were found. The agency did say the shipper was notified that the entire shipment had to be sent back out of the country.

This apparently was the first time the pest had been found in a shipment to the U.S.

Inspectors at the Port of Gulfport recently discovered a tiny hitchhiking pest in a shipment of bananas, which they said could have caused big problems to agriculture in the United States.

During a routine inspection of imported fruit March 16, agricultural specialists for U.S. Customs and Border Protection were checking over a shipment of organic bananas that came into the port from Colombia. In the shipment they found an insect they had never before spotted.

The small, hairy, wormy-looking creature was so unfamiliar that Customs and Border Protection officials turned over a sample to experts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There, it was identified as Faustinus rhombifer Champion (Curculionidae).

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