Biological Invasions

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 765–785 | Cite as

Arrivals of Hitchhiking Insect Pests on International Cargo Aircraft at Miami International Airport

  • Barney P. Caton
  • Thomas T. Dobbs
  • Charles F. Brodel


In a study of hitchhiking or contaminating insect pests on international cargo aircraft at Miami International Airport from 1998 to 1999, it was found that contamination rates were greatest, 23%, on cargo flights from Central America and much lower, near 5%, on flights from all other regions. We reanalyzed the study data to test for associations between contaminated flights and factors such as season, cargo type, and time of departure (night or day), and developed probabilistic models for predicting insect pest arrivals by region and pest risk levels. Significant (P < 0.05) associations were detected between contaminated flights and (1) wet season flights from Central America, (2) flights carrying plant products and clothing or fabrics, and (3) flights departing at night from the country of origin. In Monte Carlo simulations, numbers of arriving mated insect pests were greatest for cargo flights from Central America, because of great contamination rates, and South America, because of the large volume of flights from there. Few insects arrived on flights from the Caribbean, and few high-risk insects arrived from anywhere. Although the likelihood of establishment in South Florida via this pathway could not be estimated, based upon arrivals the greatest threats were posed by moderate-risk insect pests on flights from Central and South America. Simulations indicated that switching to daytime departures only reduced pest arrivals by one-third. The simplest mechanism for pathway entry that explains the associations found is that insects entered aircraft randomly but sometimes remained because of the presence of certain cargo types. Hence, contamination rates were greater during the wet season because of greater abundance locally, and on nighttime flights because of greater abundance around lighted loading operations. Empty planes probably had no pests because pests had no access to holds. Thus, the best mitigation strategies for this pathway will likely be those that exclude insects from holds or reduce the attractiveness of night loading operations. Optimizing inspections based on associations is also possible but will be less effective for regions such as South America, with high flight volumes and low contamination rates. Comparisons to other pathways indicates the potential importance of hitchhikers on cargo aircraft at MIA.


contaminating pests contamination hitchhikers introduction non-indigenous pests risk analysis 



Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Center for Plant Health Science and Technology

C. Am.

Central America


Customs and Border Protection


Department of Homeland Security


Miami International Airport


Plant Protection and Quarantine

S. Am.

South America


US Department of Agriculture


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barney P. Caton
    • 1
  • Thomas T. Dobbs
    • 2
  • Charles F. Brodel
    • 2
  1. 1.Plant Epidemiology and Risk Assessment Laboratory, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ)Center for Plant Health Science and TechnologyRaleigh
  2. 2.USDA, APHIS, PPQMiami Inspection StationMiami

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