What is tiny, scary and likes to travel? The Khapra Beetle! Native of Southeast Asia, India and Pakistan, this invasive species has hitched a ride to the Americas. This insect is listed as one of the world’s top destructive invasive species, usually making its way to the ports of the U.S. in shipments of grains and seeds from the southeast. Most recently the bug inspectors in the Baltimore Port found a shipment of rice from Pakistan to be infested with larvae! The shipment had only 2 options, to be destroyed in the port or to be re-exported back to Pakistan. Pakistan was issued an “Emergency Action Notice” and they chose to have the 43,000 pounds of rice shipped back! This beetle is a real danger economically to the grain storage of the U.S. should they not be identified upon entry and dealt with. They like hot dry climates and are able to survive for long periods without food or moisture; they would love Texas! There are very few insecticides or fumigants that are able to control these pests.
In 1953 a storage warehouse of barley in California was found to have been infested with the khapra beetles believed to have come in through one of the ports from Asia. By the time it was found it had already made its way to surrounding states; Arizona, New Mexico and Texas! California implemented an extensive program to rid the states of this destructive invader. It took until 1996 to get this under control, in the mean time there were increasing issues with these pests in Texas from 1980 to 1996! With Mexico so close, these beetles were a concern to Mexico as well, so much so that after several issues with grain shipments, Mexico has removed Pakistan from the list of countries that are able to ship to Mexico.
Currently this invader is found in 25 countries throughout the world. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency considers the khapra beetle to be an invasive species that is capable of causing wide-spread economic impact, negative environmental impact and increased health concern to our population, especially the old and very young. These invaders do not eat the entire grain piece but just a small portion and go on to the next one leaving behind hairs and excrement that can cause illness in people and possibly animals as well. They are such ferocious eaters that even as larvae they can actually destroy 70% of the grain in storage. So as Texans, let us all do our part to keep our state free of invaders; do not bring things back from your out of country vacations. Leave their pests behind. Be aware and report any questionable invaders you may find in your grains, cereals, pet foods and seeds.