Science Snapshot: Insect Resurrection

The potentially-invasive moth hasn’t been seen in a century.

Lisa Winter
Lisa Winter

Lisa Winter became social media editor for The Scientist in 2017. In addition to her duties on social media platforms, she also pens obituaries for the website. She graduated from Arizona State University, where she studied genetics, cell, and developmental biology.

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May 20, 2022

A large brown moth
An adult moth from the seized “seeds” discovered by US Customs and Border Protection in September 2021.
US Customs and Border Protection

A passenger arrived at Detroit Metropolitan Airport from the Philippines in September 2021, packing what they claimed were seeds to be used in tea. The US customs officer who conducted a search of the passenger soon learned the pods weren’t seeds at all. Instead, they bore signs of insect activity and officials eventually discovered immature moths inside.  

When an adult moth emerged from one of the eggs, customs officials sought help in identifying the insect. According to a press release from US Customs and Border Protection, an unnamed entomologist from the US Department of Agriculture confirmed that it was a member of the Pyralidae family, better known as “snout moths.” What’s more, the scientist said that the species hasn’t been seen in the wild since researchers first described it in 1912, and neither larvae nor pupae associated with the species had ever been collected.

Port Director Robert Larkin praised the fact that the moth was intercepted before it could become invasive, as snout moths can have a devastating effect on grain crops.