Caterpillar species intercepted at BWI airport in leaves carried by Jamaica passenger

A caterpillar species never before seen in the Baltimore area and considered a potential threat to local agriculture production was intercepted at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said Friday.

The discovery of the Chrysauginae caterpillar was confirmed July 24 after a review of the caterpillar by an entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The caterpillar was first discovered in soursop leaves being carried by a passenger who had arrived at BWI on a flight from Jamaica on Nov. 14, customs officials said.

"CBP agriculture specialists are very good at detecting foreign invasive plants and plant pests," said Dianna Bowman, CBP director for the port of Baltimore. "This discovery highlights the importance of the work they do, part of which is protecting the U.S. agriculture industry."

The leaves were confiscated from the passenger and incinerated, CBP said. The passenger was not identified.

The agency said caterpillars can "pose a significant agriculture threat" because they feed on a variety of agricultural crops.

"Infestation can lead to a decrease in productivity and quality of crops, which can result in significant economic loss," the agency said. "When bacteria and fungi enter the injury caused by the feeding caterpillars indirect effects such as rotting or early dropping of fruits can occur."

Across the country, the agency said it intercepts nearly 4,400 meat, plant and animal products every day, including 440 insects.

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