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Philadelphia CBP Claims First-in-Nation Moth Discovery

Release Date: 
September 14, 2012

Philadelphia - The U.S. Department of Agriculture national entomologist confirmed on Wednesday that a moth that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists discovered recently on a military cargo plane marked the first time that moth has been reported in the United States. The national entomologist also confirmed Thursday that a second moth discovered on that same airplane was a first reported discovery in the Philadelphia region.

CBP discovered the moths on a military plane that landed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Aug. 26 from Germany. The local USDA entomologist identified the insects as Theretra alecto Linneaus (Sphingidae), also known as the Levant Hawk Moth, and the first U.S. discovery of that species of moth, and Leucania loreyi (Duponchel) (Noctuidae), also known as the Cosmopolitan Moth.

Theretra alecto Linneaus (Sphingidae)

Levant Hawk Moth

"Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists take their job of front line protectors of America's agriculture industries very seriously," said Allan Martocci, CBP Port Director for the Area Port of Philadelphia. "Each CBP insect pest interception emphasizes the importance of their efforts. A First in Nation insect pest discovery is worth noting as both a significant accomplishment and as a warning to a new potential agriculture threat."

The Levant Hawk Moth is native to Southeastern Europe and Middle Eastern countries. It is a pest of ornamental vines such as grapes and peas, and has the potential to cause considerable damage.

The Cosmopolitan moth is native to Africa, Australia and Middle Eastern countries. It is a pest of plants in the grass family and can cause significant economic damage to cereal crops including corn, sorghum, sugarcane, rice and wheat.

The military flight arrived from Germany. Before Germany, the airplane made stops in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

CBP agriculture specialists submitted the moth specimens to USDA pest identifiers Aug. 27 and learned Aug. 29 their identities and significance.

Leucania loreyi (Duponchel) (Noctuidae)

Cosmopolitan Moth

CBP fumigated the aircraft with pesticide, and once the aircraft was free of live insects, allowed the U.S. Air Force to unload the cargo.

CBP agriculture specialists work closely with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to protect our nation's agriculture resources against the introduction of foreign plant pests and animal diseases.

For more on the USDA APHIS program, please visit APHIS.

CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection. On a typical day, they inspect tens of thousands of international air passengers, and air and sea cargoes nationally being imported to the United States and seize 4,291 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 470 insect pests.

To learn more about CBP agriculture specialists, please visit

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017