Customs agents seize exotic fruit containing pest at BWI

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents intercepted a type of mealybug pest in an exotic fruit at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, federal officials said Monday.

The bug, formally known as Maconellicoccus multipori, could have posed a "significant agriculture threat" as it feeds on the juices of greenhouse plants, house plants and subtropical trees, Robert D. Hunt, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesman, said in a statement.

The mealybug was found inside a cherimoya fruit brought by someone traveling from India in December 2012. A U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist confirmed the pest this week. Other cherimoya fruits found on the passenger were seized and burned.

Mealybugs can also be a "vector" for plant disease and an infestation can damage crop yields, Hunt said. Cherimoya fruit is commonly known as the "ice cream fruit" and originates in the Andes mountains.

Nationally, customs officials typically seize about 476 insect pests a year, Hunt said.

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