Bagrada bug: Invasive species could wreak havoc with U.S. winter crops


bagradaIllustration: Division of Research

An invasive species of insect has moved into the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, and threatens to damage cabbage broccoli, radishes, Brussels sprouts, kale and other winter vegetable crops across the nation.

A native of Africa, the bagrada bug was first detected in California in 2008. It appears in South Texas after stops in El Paso, then Mexico.

Raul Villanueva, an entomologist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco, said, “South Texas is a gateway for invasive species that can spread throughout the country. We often serve as a first responder, alerting growers in other areas of the nation of what may be coming.”

Growers outside South Texas would be wise to watch for this one, he said.

“The question is, how far will it spread from here?” Villanueva said. “That it was able to make its way out of El Paso, where we thought it was geographically isolated, tells us that it could quickly make its way to the Gulf Coast states and the Eastern U.S.”

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