PHILADELPHIA . The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently confirmed that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists intercepted one of the world’s most destructive agricultural pests, the Mediterranean fruit fly, in a shipment of Moroccan clementines in Camden, N.J., on December 14.
Ceratitis capitata, commonly known as the Mediterranean fruit fly, or medfly for short, is a species of fruit fly capable of causing extensive damage to a wide range of fruit crops. It is native to the Mediterranean area, but has spread invasively to many parts of the world, including Australasia and North and South America. The female medfly attacks ripening fruit, piercing the soft skin and laying eggs in the puncture. The eggs hatch into larvae (maggots) that feed inside the fruit pulp and make the fruit inedible.
CBP agriculture specialists discovered one live larvae among many dead larvae when they inspected a sampling from nearly 105,000 cases of Moroccan clementines destined to U.S. markets. CBP immediately quarantined the entire shipment and submitted the larvae specimen to the USDA entomologist for identification.
The local entomologist identified the larvae on December 15 as being from the tribe Cerititini, of the medfly family. A national USDA lab identified the specimen on December 19 as Ceratitis capitata, or medfly.
“Given that the Mediterranean fruit fly is one of the world’s most destructive agriculture pests, this is an extremely important find,” said Kevin Donohue, CBP’s Acting Port Director for the Area Port of Philadelphia. “If Mediterranean fruit fly were to take hold in the United States, the estimated agricultural and economic loss would be devastating. Safeguarding America’s agriculture industries remains an enforcement priority for CBP, and it’s a mission that we take very seriously.”
The importer was permitted to ship the affected U.S.-bound clementines to Canada.
In 1989, the state of California sustained billions of dollars in losses due to an infestation of medfly, that impacted the world’s fifth largest supplier of food and agriculture commodities.
CBP Agriculture Specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection. On a typical day nationally, they inspect over 1 million people as well as air and sea cargo imported to the United States and intercept 4,657 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 464 agriculture pests and diseases.