GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Officials with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol have confirmed that agriculture specialists at Detroit Metropolitan Airport have found a type of moth that hasn’t been seen in over a century.
In a news release, CBP confirmed it started in September 2021, when luggage on a passenger flight from the Philippines went through inspection. Officers found what they thought were seeds in one man’s luggage. He claimed they were for a medicinal tea. But the seeds turned out to be eggs of an extremely rare moth.
Some larvae and pupae were collected and kept for study. Some of the pupae eventually hatched, revealing what CBP officials called a “very flashy” moth with notable raised patches of black bristles. CBP agriculture experts were able to narrow down the moth’s family — Pyralidae — but couldn’t confirm the species or even the correct genus.
Specimens were sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for further study. An expert with the USDA Smithsonian Institution believes it is the first encounter of this species since 1912, when a moth fitting a similar description was recorded. The USDA also confirmed it is the first time this type of moth has ever been collected for study.
CBP agricultural specialists catch tens of thousands of “actionable pests” each year — a term the department uses to designate plants or animals considered dangerous to the local ecosystem.
Customs protocol dictates all travelers entering the United States are required to declare any possible item that could pose a threat to U.S. resources: including plants, seeds, soil, animals and plant or animal products.