Rare pest found on orchids imported into San Francisco 

click to enlarge Opuna annulatus, an agricultural pest, has been introduced into the U.S. via orchids arriving from Thailand. (AP file photo) - OPUNA ANNULATUS, AN AGRICULTURAL PEST, HAS BEEN INTRODUCED INTO THE U.S. VIA ORCHIDS ARRIVING FROM THAILAND. (AP FILE PHOTO)
  • Opuna annulatus, an agricultural pest, has been introduced into the U.S. via orchids arriving from Thailand. (AP file photo)
  • Opuna annulatus, an agricultural pest, has been introduced into the U.S. via orchids arriving from Thailand. (AP file photo)

Orchids arriving in San Francisco from Thailand last week were carrying unexpected cargo — an agricultural pest that a federal agency said is the first of its kind to have been encountered in the nation.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced the discovery Saturday after a U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist earlier in the week confirmed the type of insect found on the flowers.

The insect, Opuna annulatus — like other mirids, or members of the Miridae insect family — pierce plant tissues and feed on their juices.

The bugs, found in a shipment that arrived in the country Oct. 8, can pose a significant impact on the nation’s crop-based industries if left unchecked, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The agency said the find is the first documented interception of the insect in this country.

The box of orchids that contained the pest was destroyed and the remainder of the shipment was released, according to the agency.

“Protecting America’s agricultural industry is an enormous responsibility,” Richard Vigna, the agency’s director of field operations for San Francisco, said in a statement released Saturday morning. “Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists take their job very seriously.”

On a typical day, the specialists inspect tens of thousands of international air passengers, and air and sea shipments imported to the U.S., according to the agency, and some 450 insect pests are seized daily.

“This discovery validates the purpose of thorough Customs and Border Protection agriculture inspections,” Vigna said.

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