This is not the kind of Beatle invasion we should embrace. A shipment of ceramic tile that arrived earlier this month at the Port of Baltimore from Italy held cargo that could have chomped on U.S. crops before humans got a chance to eat them.

Inspectors with U.S. Customs and Border Protection found a Beet Flea Beetle in the ceramic shipment earlier this month at the port. It’s the first time this species has been found on these shores. The jumping beetles chew small holes in young crops, which usually kills young plants before they fully bloom.

“Keeping this pest out of the nation saves the American agricultural industry from the expense of eradication, and the hardship of finding their crops damaged by a new danger,” said Dianna Bowman, CBP Area Port Director for the Port of Baltimore.

The Beet Flea Beetle was discovered Nov. 12, but its species had to be confirmed by a USDA entomologist. That process was completed Nov. 25.

Agricultural inspectors are specifically assigned by customs to look for prohibited plant and animal materials, as well as pests. Along with a new threat to crops, in this case they also discovered a species whose name we will struggle to say five times fast for years to come.

Stephen Babcock

Stephen Babcock is the editor of Baltimore and an editor-at-large of Baltimore Fishbowl.