Khapra beetle in imported goods

Khapra beetle is an exotic pest. If it were to establish in Australia it will pose a serious threat to many of our agricultural industries. There is no immediate threat to human health or pets.

Situation

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The tiny adult Khapra beetle (top) and juvenile larvae (bottom) pictured on grains of rice.

The department, along with its state and territory counterparts, is responding to detections of khapra beetle in imported goods.

In August 2020 khapra beetle was found in the packaging of a new fridge, by a resident in Canberra, ACT. In late October, also in Canberra, another resident found khapra beetle in the packaging of a new highchair.

Fridges

The Canberra resident who discovered insects in the fridge packaging quickly reported their find to the department. An immediate response was launched, with tracing activities identifying that the fridge was one of 76 imported in one infested shipping container. The fridges had been distributed to various locations across NSW and the ACT, by the one retailer. Detections of the insect have been made at multiple sites. The department has located, inspected, and removed the fridges from this consignment, and all have been fumigated under a Biosecurity Order. The locations where the fridges were stored and used, have been treated and are now undergoing monitoring to verify that khapra beetle is absent from all sites.

Highchairs

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Example of highchair.

Upon receiving the report of khapra beetle in the highchair, the department launched a second response. Tracing efforts identified that 320 highchairs were imported in one single infested shipping container. The highchairs in this consignment were distributed nationally to 57 retail stores (owned by the one company) and two distribution/handling facilities.

Affected highchairs that remained at the retail premises were immediately removed and secured by the department under a Biosecurity Order. These highchairs and the areas where they were stored have been inspected and treated.

The remaining highchairs were sold to the public. I nspections and treatments of these highchairs are nearing completion, with a small number yet to be located. All highchairs that have been located have been removed and fumigated. Residences with an affected highchair have been inspected and treated, regardless of whether khapra beetle is found. Food stuffs which are attractive to khapra beetle such as flour, grains, dried fruit, pulses, spices, and dried pet food have been removed.

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Packaging infested with khapra beetle larvae.

Residences located in, and close to rural areas were prioritised for inspection and treatment.

Packaging associated with the highchairs is also being traced and waste sites are being inspected.

All premises and residences that have been treated will receive a number of follow-up visits to ensure that khapra beetle is absent. Specialised traps are being used as part of this surveillance program. 

The aim is to ensure and provide evidence that the pest has not established in Australia.

Advice for affected householders

Customers who purchased a fridge or highchair sourced from an infested container, have been contacted by the retailer(s) and/or the department . The department’s activities involving inspections and treatments of the highchairs and premises are nearing completion. As these containment and control activities draw to a close, the state governments are now responsible for follow-up inspections, trapping and further treatments where required. The department needs formal confirmation that the treatments have been successful in destroying the pest.

What happens next

A biosecurity officer from your state’s department of agriculture or primary industries will contact you to arrange a follow-up inspection of areas that were treated. Depending on the level of risk posed by khapra beetle at your home, specialised traps may be installed. The traps are used as part of the monitoring program and will determine if khapra beetle is still present.

The traps can be a combination of sticky wall traps and/or dome traps that are placed on the ground. They contain a lure (attractant) that is non-toxic to people and animals. The traps have been approved for use by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). A safety data sheet can be provided at your request.

The attending biosecurity officer will provide you with more detailed information about where the traps will be placed and how often they need to be inspected. They will also provide you with information on how to identify and report any signs of surviving khapra beetle.

Your continued support during this response is most appreciated.

The department’s biosecurity officers are authorised to conduct their activities under the Biosecurity Act 2015. State and territory biosecurity officers who may attend, conduct their activities in accordance with their state government’s biosecurity legislation. 

If you have a fridge, highchair or any other imported goods that you suspect may be infested with khapra beetle, you need to take immediate action.

Don’t dismiss it, and do your best to contain it by:

  • not throwing away the item(s) or packaging
  • wrapping it in plastic or sealing it to avoid the pest from escaping
  • spraying it with a common household insecticide
  • reporting it urgently to the department by calling the See. Secure. Report hotline on 1800 798 636 or complete the online form at awe.gov.au/report.

Advice for importers and retailers

If you work with or unpack imported goods, you need to be vigilant for khapra beetle and other pests found with shipping containers, their contents and break bulk cargo.  Find out how you can help by watching the department’s short cargo pests video.

Responding to khapra beetle

Strengthening import conditions

A range of urgent measures are being developed for a phased approach, to better safeguard Australia from khapra beetle. These include stricter import conditions for high-risk goods and sea containers.

High-risk plant products are defined as products that khapra beetle is known to eat and infest. Some examples include rice, chickpeas, wheat and safflower seed. To address the associated khapra risk, these plant products were restricted from entering Australia where they were part of unaccompanied personal effects or in low value, non-commercial freight from 3 September 2020. Shortly after on 15 October, this restriction was extended to baggage carried by international travellers, and mail articles.

In addition, on 29 December 2020, Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud announced a $14.5 million investment to strengthen biosecurity measures at the border. This new funding will provide for:

  • faster containerised cargo inspections and increased surveillance
  • improved sample collection, diagnostic resources and equipment and treatment
  • enhancement of electronic systems.

These improvements will support the next phases of the khapra beetle measures, including new measures to address the risk of khapra beetle hitchhiking in sea containers. 

More information about international border measures for khapra beetle.

National pest and disease response arrangements

Australia has a robust biosecurity system which everyone has a role in.  While the department applies strict biosecurity conditions for cargo, mail and passengers arriving from overseas, there are national response arrangements in place to respond to exotic pests and diseases, should they arrive. 

This response is being nationally coordinated by the the department, in conjunction with state and territory governments responsible for biosecurity.

You can find out more about the national pest and disease response arrangements on the Outbreak website.

About khapra beetle

Read more about Khapra beetle (Trogoderma granarium) and find out why it is vital that it is kept out of Australia.

Last reviewed: 16 February 2021
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