Khapra Beetle: The Complete Guide to Australian Importers

There is a range of natural hazards importers must deal with when shipping internationally. One of those threats is physically small but has the potential to cause major damage to Australia’s agriculture sector.

Importers and exporters are 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 to products themselves, 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
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 them 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, as outlined in the diagram above.

Note that Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Department’s actions came into effect in 2020. Broadly, these measures included:

  • a ban on high-risk plant products being imported into Australia via unaccompanied personal effects and low value freight (i.e., less than $1,000); and
  • a ban on importing high-risk plant products via baggage carried by international travellers (including crew) via air or sea, and mail articles.

Below, we will discuss Phases 3, 4, 5, 6A and 6B.

Requirements for high-risk plant products (Phase 3)

Phase 3 of the khapra beetle urgent actions commenced on 30 September 2021. New import conditions now apply to high-risk plant products exported after this date.

High-risk plant products coming into Australia via sea or air freight from a khapra beetle target risk country (the list of which is below) must be treated offshore. They will need to be treated with an approved treatment option and also need to be inspected by a government official of the exporting country.

You can see a list of the “high-risk plant products” here.

Precise import conditions will differ depending on the country of export.

Note however that the new import conditions do not apply to seeds for sowing and goods that are imported for research purposes coming as low-value freight (i.e. less than $1000).

The requirements are as follows:

  • The approved treatment options for the khapra bug include heat treatment, methyl bromide fumigation and modified atmosphere treatments. Note, however, that modified atmosphere treatments are a provisional option only. As such, goods treated through this option must have an import permit before they arrive in Australia.
  • The treatment providers must be approved – and cannot be conducted by a provider listed as ‘suspended’, ‘withdrawn’ or ‘unacceptable’.
  • If you are using methyl bromide fumigation to fumigate your goods, it must be done:
  • prior to packing; or
  • in gas permeable packaging; or
  • with any impermeable packaging that is open during the fumigation.
  • The treatment needs to be completed within 21 days of exporting the goods. Valid documentation must accompany the goods.
  • The goods must be accompanied by a treatment certificate that the offshore treatment provider issues. They must also be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate issued by the exporting country’s relevant authority, certifying that treatment requirements have been met and that the goods are free from all live species of Trogoderma.

For high-risk plant products exported from all other countries via ocean or air freight, they will need to be inspected by a government official of the exporting country and certified as free from evidence of any species of Trogoderma that are of concern to Australia (you can see the list of Trogoderma species of concern can be found here). Note that these requirements are in addition to the existing khapra beetle requirements for ocean containers. So, if a high-risk plant product is coming into Australia inside an FCL/FCX sea container from a khapra beetle target risk country, both the plant products and the sea container itself must receive offshore treatment.

Unless you are using methyl bromide to treat the container, the sea container must be empty (i.e. before it is packed with goods). Should you fail to comply with these requirements, your container and/or the goods may be exported once they arrive in Australia.

You can view the complete details of the new requirements on the Department’s website here.

Phases 4 & 5 Measures

Phases 4 and 5 commenced April 28th, 2022. Phase 4 will introduce revised phytosanitary certification requirements for other-risk plant products exported from all countries. While Phase 5 will introduce phytosanitary certification requirements for seeds for sowing exported from all countries and arriving via all arrival modes.

A summary of the new requirements:

Phase

Product

Country of export

Requirements 

Phase 4

All countries

Inspected offshore by government official of exporting country; AND
certified as being free from any listed species of Trogoderma (whether live, dead or exuviae) in Australia’s list of Trogoderma species of biosecurity concern. AND

are required to be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate that includes the following additional declaration:

“Representative samples were inspected and found free from evidence of any species of Trogoderma (whether live, dead or exuviae) in Australia’s list of Trogoderma species of biosecurity concern”.

Phase 5

Seeds for

sowing (excluded are high risk plant products & other risk plant products)

All countries

Failure to comply with the above requirements set by the Department may result in your goods/ the container being exported on its arrival.

If however, your products have been packed in a khapra beetle target risk country into an FCL/FCX sea container  and is expected to be unpacked in an Australian regional grain growing area, the sea container itself is required to be treated.

New target risk container requirements (Phase 6A)

Phase 6A of the Department’s new urgent action measures will involve introducing compulsory offshore treatment for target risk ocean containers.

These ‘target risk’ containers are essentially all Full Container Load and Full Container Consolidated (FCL/FCX) containers, where:

  • “high-risk plant products” are placed into a container in a “target risk country” (Target Risk Container 1); or
  • other goods are packed into the container in a risk country as above and will be unpacked in rural grain growing area of Australia (Target Risk Container 2).

“High-risk” plant products include plants such as bean seed, celery seed, chickpeas, peanuts, pigeon peas, rice and wheat. You can see a full list here. Note the new requirements for high-risk plant products below, to commence in September 2021.

“Target risk countries” are those countries listed below.

“Rural grain growing areas” in Australia include the postcodes put together by the Department, which you can view here.

As of the 15th of December 2021, the department has introduced additional 6A measures to minimise the risk of the introduction and spread of the Khapra beetle. The new measure will include the extension of mandatory offshore treatment for any FLC/FCX containers which are to be unpacked in rural nut-growing areas in Australia.  Additional postcodes to be included for rural nut growing areas of Australia include 4569, 4517, 4518, 4858, 4560.

Or alternatively, we have created a spreadsheet where you can enter your postcode to check if you’re included within a rural grain growing area.

To satisfy the Department’s new requirements, target risk containers must:

  1. Receive treatment offshore using an approved treatment option (which includes insecticide spray, heat treatment and methyl bromide fumigation – we outline these treatments in detail below).
  • Receive treatment within 21 days before export; and
  • Be accompanied by the right certification

Note that treatment must be done prior to packing the goods (unless you are using methyl bromide fumigation as your treatment method).

To demonstrate that a container has been treated within 21 days prior to export, a sealing declaration may be required.

Note that you are also required to make a statement that the target of your fumigation conforms to the plastic wrapping, impervious surface and timber thickness requirements at the time of fumigation, as per Appendix 3 of the Methyl Bromide Fumigation Methodology

These rules commenced on 12 April 2021 for Target Risk Container 1 (for containers exported on or after 12 April 2021).

Phase 6A measures will apply to Target Risk Container 2 on 12 July 2021 (for containers exported on or after 12 July 2021).

Note that these rules do not apply to certain containers including reefers, LCL/FAK, flat racks and ISO tanks that will be shipped as empties.

Below we have created a useful flowchart to help importers and exporters understand these requirements. Failure to meet the requirements outlined will result in the export of the container upon arrival in Australia.

Flow Chart explaining phase 6a

Onshore treatment is not offered as an option for standard practice. This is because moving untreated containers presents an unacceptable risk. Onshore treatment will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances.

You can also find a much more comprehensive outline of the new restrictions on the Department’s website.

All high-risk container requirements (Phase 6B)

The implementation date of these rules are yet to be announced. The Department will announce measures to all high-risk containers. Stay tuned to learn more.

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 and Container 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 three hours. The treatment must be conducted in accordance with the Heat Treatment Methodology, which you can read about here.

Methyl bromide fumigation (recommended by The Australian Department) – There are a range of options to fumigate your container offshore using this method. Prior to loading the goods, the container must be fumigated with either:

  • 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; or
  • a dose of 88 g/m³ or more, at 16°C or more, for a minimum of 48 hours, with an end point reading of 22 g/m3 or more; or
  • a dose of 96 g/m³ or more, at 11°C or more, for a minimum of 48 hours, with an end point reading of 24 g/m³ or more; or
  • a dose of 104 g/m³ or more, at 10°C or more, for a minimum of 48 hours, with an end point reading of 26 g/m³ or more.

The fumigation must be conducted in a sheeted enclosure or in a chamber, with both doors open and with an additional concentration sampling line put under the container. It must also be in accordance with the Methyl Bromide Fumigation Methodology, and by an approved provider. For treatment with Methyl Bromide, container and goods can be treated at the same time (after the goods are packed in to the container).

  • Insecticide spray – Prior to loading the goods, the container must be sprayed with a suspension concentrate formulated insecticide product. It must contain the active constituent deltamethrin. Both the interior and exterior of the floor, the interior and exterior lower portion of the three walls and doors up to 11m, as well as the door seals.  Note that using insecticide spray with the active constituent deltamethrin is a provisional measure, and the Department strongly encourages the industry to use methyl bromide fumigation or heat treatment over an insecticide spray.  You can read more about the use of insecticide spray as a treatment option here.

Note that if you do not comply with the above requirements, your container will be exported once it arrives in Australia.

Methyl bromide treatment
Methyl bromide treatment

Your container may need a sealing declaration

In some circumstances, your container may require sealing declaration.

You may require one to show that Phase 6A does not apply to your container. For example, it might have been packed in a non-khapra beetle country but the port of loading country is listed as a khapra beetle target risk country on the Bill of Lading.

You may also need one if your container has been treated within 21 days before export. For instance, if your container is packed and sealed within 21 days of treatment, the container meets the treatment within 21 days of export requirement. You will need a sealing declaration to show this.

Read more information about sealing declarations here.

You can read see a sealing declaration template on the Department’s website here.

How can you protect your cargo from the Khapra Beetle?

Not only can the Khapra Beetle contaminate your cargo and potentially ruin your goods, but an interception and subsequent investigation by the Department may also 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 in accordance with the new rules introduced this year for ocean containers and plant products. Approved options include methyl bromide fumigation, heat treatment and certain insecticide spray (read above).

Questions?

The Khapra Beetle presents a significant commercial and biosecurity threat.

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 urgent measures, 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.

Recap!

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

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