Bull Worm Pests
According to the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency two south Florida ports of entry have intercepted two “destructive pests” from the Caribbean. The pests were found in commercial produce shipments.
“Our nation’s food supply is constantly at risk from pests not known to occur in the U.S. These two significant pest interceptions by our CBPAS in Port Everglades and Miami International Airport exemplify CBP’s continued commitment to safeguarding American agriculture,” said Director, Field Operations Vernon Foret, Miami Field Office. While CBP specialists were conducting an intensive examination of a mixed commodity shipment from the Dominican Republic they discovered a larva of Helicoverpa armigera and Old World Bollworm.
By almost any standard or measure of pest severity, the Old World bollworm is high ranking. According to Nala Rogers in her article Incognito Caterpillar Threatens U.S. Borders,
annual losses from the pest are estimated at $5 billion. The caterpillars eat more than 180 kinds of plants including cotton, corn, soybeans, citrus fruits and ornamental flowers. A single female can lay thousands of eggs, and adult bollworm moths can ride wind currents up to 2,000 kilometers—about the distance from Mexico City to Albuquerque, N.M.
The invasive pest looks identical to a common North American species called the corn earworm Helicoverpa zea. This has made the task of finding and stopping the newcomers appear nearly impossible. USDA officials are trying to stop the bollworms, but first they must find them.
Entomologists can distinguish adult moths by their genitals, but only after dissections. Caterpillars have no genitals and can only be identified by their DNA, which takes about a week with traditional methods. “The problem is that you can’t take a week to get an answer if you are holding up a perishable shipment of fresh produce, like oranges or tomatoes,” says Todd Gilligan, research scientist at the Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management at Colorado State University.