US customs confiscate herbal tea that contained eggs from destructive moths

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials seized eggs from a moth species not seen in the country for more than 100 years and smuggled in as herbal tea.

The species belongs to the Pyralidae family, one of the most rampant crop pests in the world.

The eggs were discovered in a passenger’s luggage at Detroit Metro Airport (DTW) in Michigan when he arrived on a flight from the Philippines.

A moth found at Detroit Metropolitan Airport is believed to be the species’ first encounter since 1912.
US Customs and Border Protection/Zenger

CBP said in a statement Monday: “A recent interception of moths by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agricultural specialists at Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) is now considered the first encounter of the species since 1912.

“The first encounter was incidental to a September 2021 inspection of an arriving passenger flight from the Philippines.”

They continued: “Agricultural specialists discovered seeds in the personal luggage 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 eventually 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 spots of black setae (bristles).

“Physical features indicated that the moths are members of the Pyralidae family, but the genus or species could not be determined by agricultural specialists and specimens were submitted to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for further identification.

A USDA Smithsonian Institution etymologist later confirmed with CBP that this was the first encounter with this species of moth since it was first described in 1912.

“This was also the first time that any larvae or pupae associated with this species had been collected.”

Pyralidae moths can run rampant through grain, fruits and vegetables and they are described as “economically important pests”.

Port Director Robert Larkin said: “Agricultural specialists play a vital role in our country’s ports of entry by preventing the introduction of harmful exotic plant pests and foreign animal diseases into the United States.

“This discovery is testament to their important mission to identify foreign pests and protect America’s natural resources.”

CBP further said: “Each year, CBP agricultural specialists intercept tens of thousands of ‘action-oriented pests’ — those identified through scientific risk assessment and study as hazardous to the health and safety of U.S. agricultural resources.

“All travelers entering the United States are required to declare any meat, fruit, vegetables, plants, seeds, soil, animals, as well as plant and animal products (including soup or soup products) that they may be carrying.

The declaration must cover all items carried in checked baggage, carry-on baggage or in a vehicle.

“After examining plants, animal products and related articles, agricultural specialists from the CBP in the ports will determine whether these articles meet the eligibility requirements of the United States.

“Failing to declare agricultural products can lead to fines for travelers who fail to do so.”

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.

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