Moth species not seen since 1912 found in luggage at Michigan airport

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(Customs and Border Protection)

(NEXSTAR) – A moth found in the luggage of a passenger last year is now believed to belong to a species not encountered since 1912, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials.

Agricultural inspectors at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus, Michigan, found the insect in September 2021 while examining the belongings of an individual who had arrived from Philippines.

Pods that the passenger claimed were used for medicinal tea, turned out to have “insect exit holes,” the CBP said in a May 16 news release. The “pods” were placed in quarantine for further analysis, during which time the pupae hatched and several “very flashy” moths emerged.

An agricultural specialist couldn’t positively identify the moth, but the raised patches of black bristles and coloration hinted that it was part of the family Pyralidae. The samples were then sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for further research.

According to the CBP, a USDA Smithsonian Institution entomologist later confirmed that it was the first documented encounter with the species “since it was first described in 1912.” The scientific name of the moth is Salma brachyscopalis Hampson, CBP spokesperson Kris Grogan confirmed to Nexstar.

“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,” said Port Director Robert Larkin. “This discovery is a testament to their important mission of identifying foreign pests and protecting America’s natural resources.”

Every year, agricultural inspectors intercept tens of thousands of pests deemed dangerous to the health and safety of U.S. agricultural resources, CBP officials say.

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