"Very flashy" moth unseen since 1912 pops up in Michigan airport

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"Very flashy" moth unseen since 1912 pops up in Michigan airport

An elusive moth made a recent appearance at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

During an inspection of the suitcase arriving from the Philippines, agriculture specialists discovered what looked like seeds. The luggage owner said the pods were medicinal tea, but closer inspection revealed the "seeds" were actually insect eggs.

Agents confiscated them, and while in quarantine, they hatched into "very flashy" moths belonging to the family pyralidae.

A USDA Smithsonian Institution etymologist later confirmed it was a species not seen since first being described in 1912 - although the official border protection press release doesn't specify the name.

Moth - courtesy - U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Moth - courtesy - U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Photo of the moth in question. (U.S. Customs & Border Protection)*

This is also the first time larvae of this species have been collected.

The encounter took place in September 2021, and officials announced the confirmation of the species earlier this month.

"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 the press release.

“This discovery is a testament to their important mission of identifying foreign pests and protecting America’s natural resources.”

Pyralidae moths is a large group comprised of more than 6,000 species worldwide. With more than 600 known species in North America, it represents the largest moth species on the continent.

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Thumbnail: Custom by Cheryl Santa Maria. Moth image: U.S. Customs & Border Protection