The Khapra Beetle: What Australian Importers Should Know

There are a range of natural hazards importers must deal with during international shipments. One of those threats is physically small, but has the potential to cause major damage.

Importers and exporters are constantly exposed to the dangerous biosecurity risk of the Khapra Beetle, a small oval-shaped insect that hitchhikes on cargo entering Australia, posing a serious threat to the natural environment.

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Below, we’ll look at what the Khapra Beetle is in detail. We’ll look at how the insect can enter into Australia, and what risk it presents to Australian biosecurity and to your cargo. We’ll also look at what measures you can take to safeguard your shipment.

Adult khapra beetle
Adult khapra beetle
Khapra beetle larva (left) and adult (right) on seeds
Khapra beetle larva (left) and adult (right) on seeds

What is the Khapra Beetle?

The Khapra Beetle (Trogoderma granarium) is a pest that poses a major biosecurity risk to Australian grains, feeding directly on stored grain and dry foodstuffs. It can cause an extreme amount of damage, whilst also infesting goods with larval skins and hairs that are difficult to remove from transport vessels.

The Beetle can be coloured yellowish brown to dark brown and is shaped like an oval. When they are adults, they can grow to between 1.6 and 3 millimetres long and may have small, fine hairs on their wings.

Be careful that you don’t confuse the Khapra Beetle with the warehouse beetle (Trogoderma variabile) and the native Trogoderma species.

Khapra beetle larvae
Khapra beetle larvae and adults look identical to warehouse beetle (Trogoderma variabile). A conspicuous feature of khapra beetle infestation is masses of hairy larvae and their cast skins.

How can the Khapra Beetle enter Australia?

The Beetle typically enters Australia by hitchhiking on shipping containers and cargo, much like the infamous stink bug. The beetle may enter through infesting goods, like grains and foodstuffs (including wheat, barley, rice, sesame, cotton and more).

Khapra beetle larvae inside cardboard packaging corrugations
Khapra beetle larvae inside cardboard packaging corrugations

These pests tend to hide in cracks and crevices within shipping containers and can remain undetected for years. Their population tends to increase rapidly when the conditions are in their favour, leading to further contamination of goods.

The beetle is native in India but has been known to spread across the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Africa. You can find a complete list of high-risk countries here.

Case study: Contaminated cargo in Australia

Refrigerators

In August 2020, the Khapra Beetle was discovered to have infested a number of refrigerators in Australia.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment revealed that it was managing the discovery of beetles in imported containers and cargo. According to the Department, their interceptions of the cargo “occurred in imported non-food goods, such as refrigerators, car parts, nuts and bolts, as well as empty containers and high-risk food goods such as spices and flour.”

Three customers had purchased a fridge from The Good Guys, only to find it crawling with beetles. As a result, three of their stores were closed. The Department of Primary Industries announced that they would be undertaking “urgent measures” including stricter import conditions for goods at high risk.

Baby highchairs

In December 2020, the Department again announced that they were managing the detection of Khapra Beetle in a contaminated import of baby highchairs.

A container containing Khapra Beetles had been intercepted by the Department in a shipment by Baby Bunting, an infant products retailer. The company, upon discovering the infestation, closed its Dandenong South distribution centre while it was being treated and inspected.

At the time of the discovery, 260 highchairs had already been sold, so Babby Bunting began to contact those customers between 9 September and 28 October 2020 to offer replacement goods.

The Khapra Beetle clearly remains a threat to Australian shores, and is currently listed as number two on the country’s list of National Priority Plant Pests.

stages of Khapra beetle
Stages of the Khapra Beetle

What measures are in place to protect Australia from the Khapra Beetle?

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has implemented a variety of urgent actions to protect the country from the Khapra Beetle.

This includes:

  • A prohibition on importing high risk plant products (including rice, soybeans, lentils, wheat peanuts and more) within unaccompanied personal effects and freight worth under $1,000. There is also a ban on importing high-risk plant products within accompanied baggage carried by internationally travellers, as well as mail articles.
  • A new requirement (to take effect in mid to late 2021) for high-risk plant products from target-risk countries be treated offshore using an approved treatment option and inspected/certified by the exporting country’s government officials with a phytosanitary certificate and an additional declaration. There will also be other revised phytosanitary certification and treatment requirements to come into effect later in the year.
  • A new requirement (to take effect in mid to late 2021) for certain imported seeds for sowing from all countries via commercial pathways to have a phytosanitary certificate with an additional declaration.
  • The introduction of definitions for target risk ocean containers (to start in March/April 2021 at the earliest) including:
  • FCL/FCX containers carrying high-risk plant product loaded in a Khapra beetle target risk country will be subject to mandatory offshore treatment from 12th April 2021.
  • FCL/FCX container shipped from a khapra beetle target risk country and destined to a rural grain growing area of Australia – This will no longer be a requirement from 12th April 2021. The Department will confirm when this will go live in due course and a list of rural postcodes will be made available on the Department’s website.

You can find a comprehensive list of the new restrictions on the Department’s website.

Target Risk Countries

The following countries were identified with the khapra beetle presence:

  • Afghanistan
  • Albania
  • Algeria
  • Bangladesh
  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
  • Cyprus
  • Egypt
  • Ghana
  • Greece
  • India
  • Iran, Islamic Republic of
  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Morocco
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Syrian Arab Republic
  • Timor-Leste
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Yemen

Cargo Treatment Options

Target risk containers will be required to be treated offshore prior to loading the goods using one of the below options:

  • Heat treatment – Prior to loading the goods, the container must be heat treated at 60°C or higher for a minimum of 120 minutes. The treatment must be conducted in accordance with the Heat Treatment Methodology.
  • Insecticide spray – Prior to loading the goods, the container must be sprayed with contact insecticide. Both the interior and exterior of the floor, the lower portion of the walls and the door seals.
  • Methyl bromide fumigation (recommended by The Australian Department) – Prior to loading the goods, the container must be fumigated with a dose of 80 g/m³ or above, at 21°C or above, for a minimum of 48 hours, with an end point reading of 20 g/m3 or above. The fumigation must be conducted in a sheeted enclosure and in accordance with the Methyl Bromide Fumigation Methodology. For treatment with Methyl Bromide, container and goods can be treated at the same time.
Methyl bromide treatment
Methyl bromide treatment

Federal Government takes further action – December 2020

In December 2020, the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management announced that the Government would invest $14.5 million over a period of 18 months to protect the grain and horticulture industry from the khapra beetle threat.

The Minister mentioned that an outbreak could “could conservatively cost Australia $15.5 billion over 20 years”.

The Government, he said, would invest in “rapid diagnostic technology and capability, as well as targeted surveillance efforts at the border”.

How can you protect your cargo from the Khapra Beetle?

Not only can the Khapra Beetle contaminate your cargo and potentially ruin your goods, an interception and subsequent investigation by the Department may lead to the necessity to shut down your business operations while your premises are treated.

There are a number of measures you can take to protect your cargo from a potential infestation. This includes:

  • Looking for the signs. You can typically find the Khapra Beetle in stored products, as well as between cracks and under the floors of containers and packaging material. You will likely see larvae or larval skins, as well as indications of damage. You should carefully inspect any cracks or crevices you find in your storage areas, as well as under bags. If you are inspecting a shopping container, look for any contaminants like grain, which the Khapra Beetle is attracted to.
  • Practising good hygiene. By engaging in proper hygiene and pest management practices, the risk of infestation will lower. This will include sealing cracks or crevices and removing any residue that you find.
  • Treatment. Ensure your containers are treated when treatments become mandatory later in 2021 for ocean containers and plant products. Approved options include methyl bromide fumigation and heat treatment. Prior to loading goods, containers will also need to be sprayed with insecticide.

Questions?

The Khapra Beetle presents a significant commercial and biosecurity threat.

It is most unwelcome for importers, especially during the Stink Bug Season, with the Department already strictly enforcing stink bug measures for goods arriving in Australia by 31 May 2021.

If you’ve got any queries about the Khapra Beetle and how to protect your cargo from a potential infestation, including any questions about the new rules, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.

You can call us or leave a comment below, and one of our expert consultants can provide tailored advice to enhance the security and wellbeing of your cargo.

Request a Free Quote or call us on 1300 227 461

Recap!

Download our handy fact sheet with a summary of everything you need to know about the Khapra Beetle.

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