What started as a standard baggage search turned up a rare find that has not been seen in over 100 years. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport are just now sharing details on the interception which took place in September 2021.

Upon the arrival of a passenger flight from the Philippines, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents discovered suspicious plant seed pods that a passenger claimed were for medicinal tea. I'm not so sure I'd want to drink this tea though!

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Upon further inspection of the pods, CBP agents found exit holes from insects and the pods were kept in quarantine for further analysis. Moth larvae and pupae (worm-like baby insects) were found in the seed pods in question, and believe it or not, a few of them actually hatched while in quarantine! CBP describes the hatchlings as, “very flashy” moths with raised patches of black setae (bristles)."

These flashy moths were not anything agricultural specialists recognized, although its physical characteristics alluded to the moths being members of family Pyralidae. Because specialists were unable to determine the genius or species, the mysterious moths were sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for further inspection.

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

This moth encounter raises lots of questions, but hopefully this discovery can lead to new answers too!

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