U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials seized eggs from a moth species that has not been seen in the country for more than 100 years and was being smuggled in as herbal tea. The species comes from the Pyralidae family, which is one of the worst crop pests. The eggs were found in a passenger’s baggage at Detroit Metro Airport in Michigan (DTW), after he had arrived from the Philippines.
CBP released a statement Monday saying that the initial encounter was an incidental to a September 2021 inspection of incoming passenger flight from the Philippines.
“The initial encounter was incidental to a September 2021 inspection of an arriving passenger flight from the Philippines.”
They went on: “Agriculture specialists discovered seeds in the personal baggage of a passenger who claimed the pods were for medicinal tea.
“Upon closer inspection, apparent insect exit holes were discovered in the seed pods that were ultimately intercepted by CBP.”
The statement added: “Moth larvae and pupae were collected for further analysis, and while in quarantine, several of the pupae hatched to reveal ‘very flashy’ moths with raised patches of black setae (bristles).
“Physical characteristics indicated the moths to be members of family Pyralidae, however genus or species were not able to be determined by agriculture specialists and specimens were submitted to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for further identification.
“The 1912. etymologist at USDA Smithsonian Institution later confirmed that this was the first time this moth species had been seen.
“This was also the first time that a larvae or pupae associated with this species has been collected.”
Pyralidae moths can run rampant through grain, fruit and vegetables and they are described as “economically important pests.”
Port Director Robert Larkin said: “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.
“This discovery is a testament to their important mission of identifying foreign pests and protecting America’s natural resources.”
CBP further said: “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 US agricultural resources. All travelers who enter the United States must declare any meat, fruit, vegetable, plant, seed, animal, or other products that they might be carrying.
“The declaration must cover all items carried in checked baggage, carry-on luggage, or in a vehicle.
“Upon examination of plants, animal products, and associated items, CBP agriculture specialists at the ports of will determine if these items meet the entry requirements of the United States.
“Failure to declare agricultural items can result in penalties to travelers who fail to do so.”
This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.
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