LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A rare and dangerous pest known as the elephant weevil was found at the Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport recently, hitching a ride on some fresh oranges from Australia.
The live insect was found Aug. 31 on the floor of a container destined for Ft. Pierce, Fla., according to officials from Customs and Border Protection, who say this is the first time the elephant weevil has been found in the U.S.
The elephant weevil is native to Australia and is a serious pest to the wine industry. It attacks roots, stems and fruit of cultivated vine crops, causing holes, stunted growth and weakened structure. The pest also feeds on eucalyptus and other horticultural plants such as citrus, blueberry bushes and fruit trees.
The elephant weevil, named for its long slender snout’s resemblance, ranges in size from about 10 to 20 millimeters. The pest intercepted by customs officials was 14 millimeters.
The shipment was fumigated and released on Sept. 7.
“Had this pest gone undetected, it could have had a serious impact on the California wine industry,” CBP Director of Los Angeles Field Operations Todd C. Owen said in a statement.