U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists working at Los Angeles International Airport said they discovered insects that are known to attack crops while inspecting a shipment of fresh cut flowers that arrived from South Africa earlier this month.

The insects, identified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as Van Der Goot, or Toxoptera odinae, an insect from the aphids group, was called a “first in the nation pest” by the agriculture specialists as it has not previously been seen in the United States. The bugs are known to attack grain crops, fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants causing plant deformities, scarring, and loss of crops, according to Customs and Border Protection.

“Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists have a critical mission to prevent the introduction of harmful pests and diseases from entering the country,” said Carlos C. Martel CBP acting director of field operations in Los Angeles. “We take an aggressive approach in detecting and stopping threats to American agriculture.”

Customs officials said the pest was seized at the port of entry, destroyed and prevented from establishing in the United States.

On a typical day in fiscal year 2009, CBP intercepted 454 pests and seized 4,291 prohibited plant, meat and animal byproducts.

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