Destructive medfly in fruit shipment comes too close

You don't want to see this guy around -- it's one of the world's most destructive agricultural pests -- but one like him almost made it to the Philadelphia area.

The Agriculture Department announced U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists intercepted a Mediterranean fruit fly, or medfly, earlier this month.

On Dec. 14, CBP agriculture specialists discovered one live larvae among many dead ones in a shipment of Moroccan clementines in Camden.

It happened while they were inspecting a sampling from nearly 105,000 cases of Moroccan clementines destined to U.S. markets.

CBP immediately quarantined the entire shipment and submitted the larvae specimen to the USDA entomologist for identification.

Authorities say the species Ceratitis capitate can cause extensive damage to a wide range of fruit crops. The female medfly attacks ripening fruit, piercing the soft skin and laying eggs in the puncture. The eggs hatch into larvae (maggots) that feed inside the fruit pulp and make the fruit inedible.

"Given that the Mediterranean fruit fly is one of the world's most destructive agriculture pests, this is an extremely important find," said Kevin Donohue, CBP's Acting Port Director for the Area Port of Philadelphia. "If Mediterranean fruit fly were to take hold in the United States, the estimated agricultural and economic loss would be devastating. Safeguarding America's agriculture industries remains an enforcement priority for CBP, and it's a mission that we take very seriously."

The importer was permitted to ship the affected U.S.-bound clementines to Canada.

On a typical day nationally, CBP agriculture specialists inspect more than a million people as well as air and sea cargo imported to the U.S. and intercept 4,657 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 464 agriculture pests and diseases.