SEVERAL infestations of the exotic pest, khapra beetle, have been detected in imported cargo in the Australian Capital Territory.
The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment says the pest is a significant threat to Australian plant industries, including the grain export industry.
The global spread of khapra beetle is increasing and it is being detected on a wide range of plant products and as a hitchhiker pest on containers, from places where khapra beetle is not known to occur.
For this reason, the department believes that the biosecurity requirements need to be expanded and strengthened to prevent a khapra beetle incursion.
Khapra beetles are spread through the movement of infested stored grain and products such as flour, breakfast cereals, or as contamination of seed, machinery and straw.
They can also hitchhike in shipping containers or on non-food goods, such as household furnishings, refrigerators, car parts, nuts and bolts.
Khapra beetle is almost identical to the carpet, hide and warehouse beetle and many similar-looking native species in Australia, making it difficult to identify. Microscopic examination or genetic analysis is required to differentiate the species.
It can cause significant damage to stored products as the larvae crawl over, eat and contaminate the products.
Cast skins and hair from the larvae contaminate grain, which can be a health risk, and are difficult to remove from grain storage structures and transport vessels.
The khapra beetle is well-established in many regions of the world including parts of Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. It prefers hot, dry conditions and will not usually be present outdoors or in damp areas.
Sources: Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment; Biosecurity Queensland
Information on the Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON) alert: https://bicon.agriculture.gov.au/BiconWeb4.0/ViewElement/Element/Alert?elementPk=1361988
Plant Health Australia fact sheet: https://www.planthealthaustralia.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Khapra-beetle-FS.pdf
Report possible sightings to Exotic Plant Pest Hotline, 1800 084 881