An agriculturally destructive moth species never before seen in the United States was found in a shipment of Chinese soybeans at the port of Baltimore, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Friday.

The insect species, Nemapogon gersimovi, could "pose a significant agriculture threat because they are known to feed on seeds and grains, reducing a farmer's yield," the agency said.


The 50,000-pound shipment of bulk organic soybeans, intended as animal feed, was not allowed into the country and was exported. Entomologists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday confirmed the species of the moth, which was found May 2.

"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 Andrii Melnyk, acting customs and border protection director at the port, in a statement. "By stopping destructive species at the border, before they can enter the United States for the first time, CBP officers and agriculture specialists protect this vital American industry."

The agency seizes nearly 4,400 prohibited meat, plant and animal products and about 440 pests across the country each day, it said.

The discovery this month was not the first time a foreign pest was found in the Baltimore area.

In March, a slug never before seen in the Washington region and also considered a threat to agriculture was found in a shipment of Mexican mint at Dulles International Airport.

In September, eggs of a destructive foreign moth species, the Asian gypsy moth, were found aboard a ship docked in Baltimore. The ship had made calls in Japan.