MIAMI – A long-horned beetle that has decimated mango plantations in China was found for the first time in the United States at the Port of Miami aboard a freighter transporting cargo from Hong Kong, federal officials said Friday.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture inspectors found a single live beetle March 1 in a shipment of granite counter tops from Hong Kong, said Jennifer Connors, an agency spokeswoman in Miami.
The beetle, Rhytidodera bowringii, has destroyed more than 100 mango plantations on Hainan Island in southern China, she said. It burrows into a mango tree's trunk and branches, causing limb breakage and eventually death.
"The fact that it's such an aggressive beetle toward mango crops, and South Florida is the No. 1 mango growing area in the United States, we were very lucky to catch this," Connors said.
The beetle found in Miami was about 4 inches long, considerably larger than the species' average length of 1.5 inches, she said.
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington said the beetle hitchhiked on the granite shipment at the beginning of its overseas journey.
"It came straight from Hong Kong because that's where the biggest population of these beetles are. You don't find them in the Western Hemisphere," Connors said.