The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at crossings in Detroit and Port Huron have discovered an invasive bug with a taste for grains such as wheat, barley, corn and rice.

Two Khapra beetles were found in a shipment of chickpeas from India this spring at the Fort Street Cargo Facility, and two Khapra larvae and a live beetle were found in a family's luggage last month at the Blue Water Bridge, reports the Chicago Tribune.

The bug may only be as big as a nickel is thick, but "if not interdicted, (it) could wipe out soybean, wheat and corn crops," Kenneth Hammond, chief of cargo operations at the Fort Street center, told The Detroit News.

The beetle originated in India and prefers warm, dry conditions. The American Southwest would be at greatest risk, but the beetle is resilient in unfavorable conditions, said Jim Zablotny, an insect identifier with USDA.  "The pest, if it gets loose in the United States, will be a major problem," he said.

In 1953, the discovery of Khapra beetles in California led to a massive control and eradication effort that went on for 13 years and cost millions. Before the beetles were eliminated, they spread to warehouses, storage bins and mills in Arizona.

"Officers here in Detroit employ several methods to keep it and other pests from entering the country," Hammond said. "From simply fumigating containers to quarantining shipments until treatment, the methods are many."

Each day, an average of 5,500 trucks pass through the Fort Street facility, making it one of the busiest inspection ports in the United States.

Source: Chicago Tribune