A U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory has confirmed that 27 egg masses of Asian gypsy moths were discovered on a freighter in Baltimore, and again during the ship’s transit to Brunswick, Ga.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists first encountered and removed six egg masses during a routine inspection on the Columbia Highway, a vehicle carrier that arrived from the U.K. and had made a port call in Japan in June and July. During the vessel’s transit from Baltimore to Brunswick, crewmen discovered and mitigated 20 additional egg masses, and when the ship moored in Brunswick, Customs agriculture specialists discovered another.
Customs reported that the vessel was clear of the Asian gypsy moth egg masses during a follow-up examination in Charleston, S.C.
The moth poses a threat to U.S. forests and urban landscapes, as it is known to be extremely mobile — females can travel up to 25 miles per day — and can lay egg masses that could yield hundreds of caterpillars, according to Customs. The moths are “voracious” eaters that attack more than 500 species of trees and plants, the agency said.
“This important interception highlights the serious threat that the highly invasive and destructive Asian gypsy moth poses to our nation’s agriculture industries and to our economy,” said Susan Thomas, acting CBP port director for the Port of Baltimore, in a written statement. “This case also demonstrates the tremendous teamwork and cooperation between U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Department of Agriculture and merchant seamen to quickly mitigate this potential threat.”