Feds at Detroit Metro Airport find moths not seen in U.S. since 1921

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists at Detroit Metropolitan Airport discovered in passenger baggage a moth species not seen since 1912.

In a September 2021 inspection of an arriving passenger flight from the Philippines, agricultural specialists found seeds in the baggage of a passenger who claimed the pods were for medicinal tea. On closer inspection, CBP agents found apparent insect exit holes in the pods.

Officials said moths found in a traveler's luggage at Detroit Metropolitan Airport may be members of the Pyralidae family and could be the first encounter of the species since 1912.

Moth larvae and pupae were collected for analysis, and agents reported that while in quarantine, several of the pupae hatched to reveal “very flashy” moths with raised patches of black setae, or bristles. Physical characteristics indicated the moths to be members of family Pyralidae.

A USDA Smithsonian Institution etymologist confirmed it was the first encounter of the species of moth since it was first described in 1912. This was also the first time that a larvae or pupae had been collected. 

“This discovery is a testament to (agriculture specialists') important mission of identifying foreign pests and protecting America’s natural resources,” said port director Robert Larkin

Each year, CBP agriculture specialists intercept tens of thousands of “actionable pests,” those identified through scientific risk assessment and study as being dangerous to the health and safety of U.S. agricultural resources.

Travelers entering the United States are required to declare meats, fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds, soil, animals, and plant and animal products (including soup or soup products). The declaration includes items carried in checked baggage, carry-on luggage, or in a vehicle.