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Md. Officials Find Brown Fir Longhorned Beetle At Port Of Baltimore

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Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Port of Baltimore proved to be the last stop for a bug not more than an inch long—and it’s lucky it was stopped.

Alex DeMetrick reports where this insect from Asia has slipped in, billions of dollars in damage has followed.

Out of the thousands of shipping containers moving into the Port of Baltimore, only a fraction are physically inspected.  Fortunately, one of those inspections turned up an brown fir longhorned beetle.

“It’s native to China.  It could cause significant damage to forestry and the timber industry,” said David Ng, U.S. Customs & Border Protection.

And not just timber grown for harvest.  The brown fir longhorned beetle will gnaw into and kill trees from state forests to backyards.  It’s caused billions in losses in New England and its first appearance here was stopped at the port.

“It’s what we call a hitchhiking pest.  Those containers are in other ports.  Doors are open.  Cargo’s sitting around fields and trees and whatever can fly into them can go along for the ride,” Ng said.

For the past few years, Maryland has been destroying thousands of ash trees to stop another foreign invader that did sneak in—the emerald ash borer.

Gypsy moths have also become established in Maryland after being brought to the U.S. from Asia.  Massive spraying programs have not eliminated them.

This spring, Asian stink bugs are expected in plague-like numbers in Maryland after making their way to the mid-Atlantic a few years ago in a shipping container.

Fortunately, the brown fir longhorned beetle is one hitchhiker whose ride stopped short.

The Port of Baltimore is one of the entry points into the country staffed with a full-time entomologist, an insect scientist looking for foreign invaders.

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