BALTIMORE (WJZ)– It’s got a cute name– the tumbling flower beetle. But it’s got a nasty appetite.

As Alex DeMetrick reports, fortunately it was stopped in time at the Port of Baltimore.

Consider the scale, and the odds look like a long shot. In all the shipping containers coming into the Port of Baltimore, inspectors checked one from China packed with steel coils, and found one bug the size of a fingernail– the tumbling flower beetle.

“We found the pest in the container. It’s what we call a hitchhiking pest. It just went into the container and came along overseas for the ride,” David Ng, a U.S. Customs agriculture specialist, said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection say it’s the first time the beetle from China has been found at the port. With no natural predators in the U.S., the invasive beetle is a threat.

“They can cause damage to agricultural crops and natural resources in the environment,” Ng said.

To understand the importance of stopping this beetle, all you have to do is look at the insects that made it in.

In Western Maryland, hemlock trees hundreds of years old have to be injected with pesticide to kill another beetle from Asia, before it kills the trees. Then there’s the Asian stinkbug, which arrived less than 10 years ago and has caused millions of dollars in crop losses in Maryland.

Last but not least, the Emerald Ash Borer from China now infests most of the state.

The potential damage is huge.

“Millions and millions of dollars. We estimate the Emerald Ash Borer could create as much as $270 million of damage in Maryland,” Buddy Hance, the Maryland Secretary of Agriculture, said.

Luckily the tumbling flower beetle, which gets its name from jerky movements to escape predators, did not escape notice at the port.

U.S. Customs cannot check all containers so it uses a special targeting formula to select containers for inspection.


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