Bug smuggling is big business

Introducing an animal where it doesn’t naturally belong can be a problem too. If invertebrates smuggled into a new country get loose, they, or the parasites they host, can gobble up or otherwise harm native crops, plants, trees, or animals. “When you don’t know what’s coming in, there’s always that little concern,” says Greg Bartman, a U.S. Department of Agriculture employee who identifies insects found in cargo shipments. He points to the Indian walking stick insect as a cautionary tale: He suspects the exotic pet trade brought them to Southern California, where they’re wreaking havoc on hibiscuses, ivy, rosebushes, and other plants. And giant African millipedes (the same species of arthropods that escaped from a package addressed to Wlodzimie Lapkiewicz)? They sometimes carry a mite that can destroy bulb crops such as onions and garlic.