Customs agents are used to confiscating fake Viagra pills, counterfeit sports jerseys and illegal DVDS. They're not accustomed to snagging giant myriapodous arthropods, however, that wriggle in the dirt and eat decaying plants.
But the U.S. Customs and Border agriculture specialists found and intercepted 20 foot-long millipedes at the San Francisco International Airport mail facility, the agency announced on Friday, and in doing so, stopped the slimy creatures from any further travel.
The intended recipient in Vista, California, was sent a letter that his or her package of exotic wormlike insects would not be arriving from Berlin, Customs Chief J. Frederick Ho told NBC Bay Area. Ho didn't know why the box would be sent to San Francisco and not LAX.
“I'll be honest, we do get certain strange things here," Ho said. "But I can't recall ever getting something like this here. It is out of the ordinary.”
Shipping millipedes – which some like to keep as exotic pets – isn't illegal, Ho said, but they do need a special permit to be sent through the mail – and this package didn't have that. In fact, the package was mislabled "toy car model."
An agent discovered the millipedes while inspecting the facility's X-ray machine and noted the discrepency. Inside the X-rayed package was a large Styrofoam box, containing a mesh bag that held the millipedes, along with chunks of soil and paper.
Ho said, since the shipper lives in Germany, it is unlikely that person will face a fine or a penalty.
The millipedes were whisked off to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and were euthanized.