“Very flashy” moth not seen in the United States since 1912 was being smuggled into the country: Officials

A moth not seen in the United States for more than a century was discovered being smuggled into the country by a passenger arriving at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport from the Philippines.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection made the announcement this week, but said the initial incident dates back to September, 2021.

That’s when agriculture specialists discovered seeds in the baggage of a passenger who claimed the pods were for medicinal tea. But when officials looked more closely, insect exit holes could be seen in the seed pods.

Pods seized last fall at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Photo: USCBP

It took some leg work to figure out what they were dealing with.

Moth encountered at Detroit Metropolitan Airport
Moth species seized at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Photo: USCBP

Moth larvae and pupae were seized, and while in quarantine, several of the pupae hatched revealing what U.S. Customs called, “very flashy” moths. The insects had raised patches of black setae, or bristles.

They appeared to be members of family Pyralidae, one of the most rampant crop pests in the world.

However genus or species was unclear. And so, specimens were handed over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A USDA Smithsonian Institution entomologist later confirmed this was a first encounter of this species of moth since it was first described in 1912.

This was also the first time that a larvae or pupae associated with this species has been collected. 

“Agriculture specialists play a vital role at our nation’s ports of entry by preventing the introduction of harmful exotic plant pests and foreign animal diseases into the United States,” Port Director Robert Larkin said in a statement. “This discovery is a testament to their important mission of identifying foreign pests and protecting America’s natural resources.”

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