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‘Highly destructive’ Asian gypsy moth found on coal freighter at Port of Baltimore

The U.S. Department of Agriculture discovered a highly destructive pest, an Asian gypsy moth, attached to a coal vessel two weeks ago after it returned from the United Kingdom. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection
The U.S. Department of Agriculture discovered a highly destructive pest, an Asian gypsy moth, attached to a coal vessel two weeks ago after it returned from the United Kingdom. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed Tuesday that Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists discovered eggs from a “highly destructive” moth attached to a coal freighter at the Port of Baltimore two weeks ago.

The egg mass was determined to be an Asian gypsy moth, one of the most destructive insect pests in the world, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The species is not generally found in the United States.

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The moth poses a large threat to forests, natural resources and urban landscapes as it can attack more than 500 species of plants and trees. The insect can also yield hundreds of hungry caterpillars and is incredibly mobile, with females traveling upwards of 25 miles per day.

Agriculture specialists found the egg mass under a hatch door on the coal freighter, the release said. The vessel previously traveled to ports in China and Japan last summer and had recently arrived in Baltimore’s port from the United Kingdom to get coal. Ports in Asia are known to be at high risk for the Asian gypsy moth.

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A CBP agriculture specialist, right, inspects a coal ship in Baltimore.
A CBP agriculture specialist, right, inspects a coal ship in Baltimore. (Photo courtesy of Customs and Border Protection)

The egg mass was removed by agriculture specialists, the release said, and the area was treated with a pest spray oil. The mass was then sent to a local United States Department of Agriculture pest identifier, who concluded it was a Japanese gypsy moth.

“While most of the country remains hunkered down against coronavirus, Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists remain on duty protecting our nation’s vital agricultural resources against Asian Gypsy Moth and other highly destructive insect pest invaders,” Adam Rottman, CBP area port director for the Port of Baltimore, said in a news release.

East Russia, South Korea, Japan and Northeast China have its port agriculture inspectors undergo inspection training specifically for the destructive gypsy moth in an attempt to lower the risk of exposure. Vessels making port calls in Asia also usually implement strict inspections to remove egg masses.

Last year, agriculture specialists across the United States intercepted 314 pests at port entries, the release said.

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