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Moth last seen 110 years ago found at Detroit airport

Moth last seen 110 years ago found at Detroit airport
A species of moth, last seen in 1912, was discovered inside a passenger's bag at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Photo courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

May 18 (UPI) -- A species of moth, not seen since 1912, was found inside a passenger's luggage at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection found larvae and pupae from the moth last September inside a bag arriving from the Philippines.

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Customs and Border Protection said Monday the passenger claimed the seeds were for medicinal tea. Upon closer inspection, agriculture specialists discovered exit holes in the pods and confiscated them.

While in quarantine, the pupae hatched to reveal what etymologists called "very flashy" moths with raised patches of black bristles, indicating the moths are members of the Pyralidae family.

A Smithsonian Institution expert later identified the moth as "Salma brachyscopalis Hampson" and determined the moth was last seen more than a century ago, according to Kris Grogan, a spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection.

The Smithsonian etymologist also confirmed it was the first time larvae or pupae associated with this species of moth had been collected.

The moths found at the airport were "disposed of via steam sterilization," said Grogan.

"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."

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