The Associated Press reported that after 9/11, inspections for foreign insects coming into United States’ ports rapidly declined. Iowa is on the lookout for some of those pests that have made it into our borders. Here is the AP story and our own local version: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44841097/ns/us_news-security/
Its location in the central United States has not made Iowa immune from the insect invasions that plague the coasts.
“We’re always concerned and we hope for vigilance as it relates to invasive species,” Donald Lewis, Iowa State University entomologist, said of the national border protection issue. “Insects do not respect geo-political boundaries.”
Lewis and Robin Pruisner, state entomologist for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, said the threats vary, but in general, almost any pest can make its way to the state.
The light brown apple moth that emerged in California, for example, might not survive Iowa’s harsh winters, Pruisner said.
Still, some insects adapt in ways that scientists cannot predict, she said, pointing to the emerald ash borer as an example.
While experts believe emerald ash borer was in the United States about 15 years before it was discovered in Michigan in 2002, Pruisner said it likely arrived via foreign shipments.
In its native China, the beetle does not create the devastation it does in the U.S., she said, perhaps because of differing climates or native predators.
Evidence of the borer was detected on a Mississippi River island last year in Allamakee County, but traps have found no evidence of the pest further infiltrating Iowa, Lewis and Pruisner said.
Iowa is also on the alert for the brown marmorated stink bug, first identified in 2001 in Pennsylvania, likely from Asian shipping containers. One sighting in Cedar Rapids of a dead stink bug has so far been an isolated report.
The brown marmorated stink bug feeds from a long list of plants, including fruits, vegetables, field crops and shade trees.
Lewis said Iowa farmers have reported no sightings of the pest during the growing season, but in other states, homeowners have discovered the bug with its shield-shaped body and mottled brownish gray color.
Adult bugs migrate into homes to overwinter in the fall, an invasion described as worse than box elder bugs and lady beetles, combined.
Thousand cankers disease of black walnut, a fungus carried by beetles, is also a concern in Iowa, but has not been detected here yet.
Like other foreign invaders, the disease could have a devastating effect on a sector of the economy.
Pruisner, a member of the National Plant Board, which works to protect agriculture and other industry from pests, acknowledged that terrorism is an essential security focus, “but you don’t want to bring in pests that will cause harm to our food and fiber production in the United States.”