Baltimore Customs and Border Protection agents have ordered a shipping container of rice from Pakistan to be sent back or destroyed in an effort to block a destructive, invasive beetle from entering the United States.
Customs officials said in a statement that entomologists confirmed on Friday that a 46,200-pound container that came through the Port of Baltimore contained 40 dead larvae of the Khapra beetle, which they called the largest infestation they have seen in Baltimore since 1996 and 1987.
In a statement, authorities called the beettle a major threat to agriculture. It has been called one of the world's most destructive insect of grains, cereals and stored foods, and can live for nine months with no food.
The container Pakistan, arrived June 3 on a Liberian-flagged cargo ship, the Northern Jupiter, and was the only container of Pakistan rice in the shipment, said Steve Sapp, a customs spokesman.
Native to South Asia, the beetle turned up in California in 1953, sparking an $11 million eradication effort in the United States and Mexico, officials said. It has been found in northern Africa and the Middle East, and to a lesser extent in Asia, Europe and southern Africa.