U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in Baltimore saved the country from some very bad hombres last week, though they’re probably not what President Trump had in mind when he first used the phrase on the campaign trail.
On Friday, the federal agency revealed that its agricultural specialists had “put an end to the globe-trotting ways of one Khapra beetle” through some solid detective work earlier this month. According to a release, they found one live beetle and four exoskeletons in Baltimore on a shipping container carrying screws on May 4.
The Khapra beetle is an insecticide-resistant pest that feeds on grains, cereals and other stored foods. The agency calls it a “dirty feeder” because the bug damages more grain than it eats and contaminates it with body parts and hair, which in turn can cause gastrointestinal problems in consumers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the “endemic” pest has infested 31 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
Mysteriously, the container had come in from Thailand, a non-native country for the bug. CBP turned to its agriculture specialists, who tracked the container’s history of moving through two infested countries – Saudi Arabia and Sudan – in spring and summer of 2016. It then went through Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, all considered non-infested countries, before making its way to Baltimore.
Officials fairly remarked on the beetle’s discovery in terms that some might consider inhumane if applied to humans by people who work or have worked in the White House.
“Our best defense against destructive pests, like the Khapra beetle, is to prevent their entry into the United States,” said CBP Area Director for the Port of Baltimore Dianna Bowman in a statement.
The United States has been fighting off these beetles long before it became fixated on undocumented humans. According to CBP, authorities in California spent about $11 million, or around $90 million in 2017 dollars, to eradicate the bugs within its borders in 1953.