Rare beetle discovered in coconut shipment is first of its kind in US, officials say

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A shipment of coconuts from Mexico to Texas yielded a rare insect that had never been seen before in the United States.

U.S. Customs and Border Protections officials say agriculture specialists found a live insect inside a shipment inspected at the Pharr International Bridge last month. The bug was sent from the Rio Grande-area bridge to an entomology lab for identification.

The insect was determined to be an Eburia nigrovittata, a species of longhorn beetles, U.S. Customs said. This particular species feeds on stems, trunks and roots of woody plants, which can cause extensive damage to living trees.

Officials said the species had never been found at any of the country’s ports of entry. The shipment containing the coconuts was returned to Mexico.

Letting the beetle roam free and potentially spread could have been “detrimental to the nation’s agriculture industry,” the federal agency said.

“By intercepting these exotic pests, our agriculture specialists help protect American agriculture and contribute to the nation’s economic security by denying entry to invasive species not known to exist in the U.S.” Port Director Carlos Rodriguez said in a statement.

The species was first discovered in 1884 in Mexico, according to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. All previous georeferenced records of the beetle are in Mexico.

There are an estimated 1.5 million beetle species roaming the Earth, according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine.

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