The encounter began in September 2021, when agriculture specialists examined the passenger’s bag and found seeds that he said were for a medicinal tea, CBP said in a statement. Looking closer, the specialists found “apparent insect exit holes,” and larvae and pupae — moths in the early stage of their development — were gathered for analysis.
While in quarantine, several of the pupae hatched to reveal “very flashy” moths with raised black bristles, CBP said. Officials couldn’t identify the moths’ species, so they were sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where an expert confirmed that they belonged to a species that had not been seen since the animals were first described in 1912.
“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 statement. “This discovery is a testament to their important mission of identifying foreign pests and protecting America’s natural resources.”