Border enforcement officers recently discovered moth eggs on a cargo ship coming in from China that were laid by an invasive species labeled by the U.S. as a “serious threat.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in September found four masses of Asian gypsy moth eggs on a Panamanian bulk carrier in port at Los Angeles, CBP announced.
A third-party surveyor in Tianjin, China had certified the ship as free of Asian gypsy moths on Aug. 12, according to CBP.
The eggs were treated with a pesticide, but “due to the excessive amount of egg masses,” the ship was ordered to anchor outside U.S. waters and undergo cleaning and disinfection, according to CBP.
The vessel had been flagged for inspection because it had recently been in Chinese ports in areas with high Asian gypsy moth risk.
The Asian gypsy moth is a “serious threat to our country’s landscapes and natural resources,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The “exotic pest” has not yet established a population in the U.S., but a large population could “completely defoliate trees” and make swaths of forests, orchards and landscaping vulnerable to disease and death.
The moths are “active fliers” that could spread quickly around the country. Each female can lay hundreds of eggs, and the “voracious” caterpillars can eat more than 500 tree and shrub species, according to the USDA.
The species is similar to another invasive species, the European gypsy moth. Brought to the U.S. by silk traders in 1869, that species has since become one of the most challenging pests in North America, according to the National Parks Service.
Terri Edwards, area port director of New Orleans, said the European gypsy moth is a cautionary tale.
“Today’s European gypsy moth infestation came from a release of captive moths in Massachusetts 150 years ago, so yes, we’ll turn around a 740-foot bulk carrier over four tiny egg masses,” she said of the recent Asian gypsy moth discovery.
Also on the invasive species front, U.S. officials are hoping to drive another Asian species, the Asian carp, away from the Great Lakes with a variety of methods including noise, bubbles and electric barriers.
And Asian giant hornets, or the so-called “murder hornets” that caused panics in recent years, seem to have been eradicated from the U.S., Newsweek reported.