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Imported container held invasive beetle

June 17, 2009 at 1:40 PM

DETROIT, June 17 (UPI) -- A customs official says inspectors in Detroit found a highly invasive beetle inside a container being shipped into the United States from China.

Customs and Border Protection Chief Ronald Smith said the insect found in a shipment of tiles could have potentially wreaked havoc on the agricultural industry in the United States had it not been caught, Detroit's WDIV-TV reported Tuesday.

"It's called a Khapra beetle," Smith said of the recent customs discovery. "It's on the top 10 of the worst bugs that could try and come into the country."

"One-third of our gross domestic product is from agriculture, if we have any type of agriculture calamity, it's going to be devastating to our economy," customs agriculture expert Mark Danklefsen told WDIV-TV of the threat the country avoided with the beetle's discovery.

The Detroit Free Press said the Khapra beetle has twice threatened the U.S. agriculture industry, once in the 1950s and again in 1980.

While in both instances, the beetle was eradicated, Smith said the Khapra species remains one creature that customs officials are always looking for in U.S. imports.

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