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‘Very flashy’ moth not seen in more than a century found in bag at Detroit airport

A type of moth last seen more than a century ago was discovered in a traveler’s luggage at the Detroit airport last year, officials said Monday.

A Smithsonian Institution expert identified the insect as Salma brachyscopalis Hampson, a moth last seen in 1912, Kris Grogan, a spokesperson with Customs and Border Protection, said in an email.

Larvae and pupae from the moth were found in September at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in a bag arriving from the Philippines, Grogan said in a news release. The insects were inside seed pods that the passenger claimed were for medicinal tea, Grogan said.

Insect holes were found in the pods, and the moths were seized, Grogan said. The insects hatched in quarantine, revealing raised patches of black bristles.

The release described the moth as “very flashy.”

An agriculture specialist believed the insects belonged to the Pyralidae family, a group with thousands of species worldwide, Grogan said. But the expert couldn’t identify it further.

The Smithsonian expert later identified the species and said it was the first time the insect’s larvae or pupae had been collected, the release says.

It isn’t clear where the sighting was in 1912, the year the insect was first described, Grogan said in an email.

Grogan added that the moths found at the airport were “disposed of via steam sterilization.”

Joe Studley contributed.