Invasive Pests

It is increasingly more challenging to control pest infestations.

By Chelle Hartzer

With supply chains spanning the globe, the shipping industry faces many challenges — especially when it comes to pest control. Because many locations around the world store large inventories, the risk of a pest infestation can affect all legs of the supply chain process. If product and supplies become infested, companies can suffer lasting blows to their reputation and bottom line.

Thoroughly inspecting shipments for signs of pest activity is particularly important in preventing non-native, invasive pests from infesting commercial facilities. Not only will inspection practices help to prevent the threat of contamination, but also to help keep exotic species from traveling with shipments. Species such as Asian tiger mosquitoes and Formosan subterranean termites were brought to the United States by way of imported goods. As millions of imports and exports are distributed through commercial trucks, marine ports and air cargo, it becomes increasingly more challenging to control these unwanted hitchhikers.

Why are invasive pests a huge threat? Often, these pests do not have natural predators in the United States, which allows them to multiply quickly. Additionally, factors such as favorable weather conditions and near unlimited resources allow these pests to thrive. While doing so, they may damage product and could pose serious dangers to commercial facilities. The good news is that invasive pests, like native species, can be prevented by implementing techniques to stop them from tagging onto shipments in the first place.

The most effective way to combat these pest problems is to implement an integrated pest management (IPM) program that involves shippers, distributors, maintenance crews and pest management professionals. An IPM plan focuses on the long-term prevention of pests through a combination of exclusion, maintenance and sanitation techniques. By educating your staff on this combined approach to pest control during all parts of the shipping process, you’ll be well on your way to preventing a potential problem.

Common Invasive Pests 

The first step to controlling a potential infestation is to identify which pests that are direct threats to the supply chain industry. Here is a list of invasive pests that can wreak havoc if introduced to a non-native ecosystem, causing harm to the economy, environment and human health:

• Brown marmorated stink bug (BMSBs) – Native to parts of east Asia, the BMSB was first discovered in the United States in 1988. These invasive insects can cause serious agricultural damage as they feed on a wide range of fruits and vegetables. Once inside facilities, they release unpleasant pheromones that attracts other stink bugs.

• Kudzu bug – Originally from Asia, kudzu bugs were first spotted in Georgia in 2009, and have since spread across the Southeastern states. Kudzu bugs feed on crops like soybean and can also cause quite the stink. If disturbed, these bugs produce a strong, unpleasant odor.

• Formosan termites – Known as detritus feeders, Formosan termites usually feed on cellulose and organic fiber found in vegetation. They infest structures that come into direct contact with soil and are attracted to places that are plentiful in moisture and can even infest roofs.

• Asian tiger mosquitoes – Native to Southeast Asia but now found in many parts of the world, Asian tiger mosquitoes can thrive in a wide variety of environments and conditions. They are known carriers of yellow fever and dengue fever and lay their eggs in any standing water.

• Rasberry Crazy ants – First found in Texas in 2002, crazy ants have spread rapidly throughout the Southwest. These ants can bite humans and feed on plants, other insects, meats, grease and various liquids.

Shippers and Transportation 

The transportation leg of the supply chain process is vulnerable to pest activity because shipping vehicles offer ideal conditions for pests: food, water and shelter. Non-native pests affect different products, and if stored together, all types of products can become cross-contaminated.

To help reduce infested products from contaminating other goods, shippers should create routine inspections of all goods – whether it’s a truck, ship, train or airplane – to help identify pest problems early. When infested products are identified, there should be a system in place to isolate that product, stop all shipments, and perform any necessary corrective actions to prevent the pests from spreading.

By working with a pest management professional, shippers can identify hot spots and potential conducive conditions that make a site vulnerable to invasive species. Pest management professionals can do detailed inspections, focusing on key areas to help prevent issues, identify issues early and treat accordingly.

Warehouses and Distribution Centers 

Facilities should adopt a comprehensive IPM program that proactively addresses potential pest problems and incorporates regular sanitation and maintenance techniques. As part of your IPM program, work with a pest management provider to create a plan for inspecting and monitoring incoming shipments. To avoid bringing an infestation in your facility, here are a few things you can do:

• Inspect incoming shipments for signs of pest activity.

• Be sure packages are properly sealed before transport and not damaged.

• Don’t bring a pallet of goods directly from the transport vehicle into storage areas until it has been inspected. Instead, break it down at the loading dock. If there are pests on the pallets, do not bring it into the facility; segregate it to prevent contaminating other goods.

• Install monitoring devices such as insect light traps, pheromone monitors, and glue boards in shipping and receiving areas.

In addition, follow these tips as a general best practice:

• Place supplies on open-backed shelving to remove pest hiding spots.

• Implement proper stock-rotation practices so older products are always used first.

• Check cleanliness and orderliness of all shelving.

• Clean regularly, including hard-to-reach areas and equipment.

• Clean up or dispose of any spilled or damaged products immediately.

The entire supply chain process is vulnerable to invasive pest infestations, which can impact your bottom line. Implement a proactive IPM program that helps protect your inventories and work with a pest management provider to create an ongoing plan to help your process stay pest-free from both native and non-native pests.

Chelle Hartzer is technical services manager for Orkin. She is a board-certified entomologist and provides technical support and guidance across all Rollins brands in the areas of operations, marketing and training. For more information, email or visit