Moth species not seen in more than 100 years found in bag at Detroit Metro Airport

DETROIT — Officers with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said that unusual seeds in a passenger’s bag resulted in the first encounter with a specific moth species since 1912.

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In a news release, officers with CBP said that the seeds were found in a passenger’s bag who arrived from the Philippines in September 2021. The passenger told officers that the seed pods were for medicinal tea. Officers said they found “apparent insect exit holes” and intercepted the seed pods.

While in quarantine, several insects hatched to reveal what CBP described as “very flashy” moths with raised patches of black bristles. Officials sent the insects to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where a Smithsonian Institution etymologist determined it was the first encounter of the moth family Pyralidae since it was first described in 1912.

The Pyralidae family is more commonly known as a snout moth, and while there are more than 6,000 species of moth in the world, only about 600 are in the U.S. and Canada, WJBK reported.

“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 disease into the United States,” Port Director Robert Larkin said in a statement. “This discovery is a testament to the important mission of identifying foreign pests and protecting America’s natural resources.”