Science

Northeast residents told to destroy invasive insect

There’s a new bug invading the eastern U.S. 

The spotted lanternfly has been seen in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Indiana. 

Rhode Island discovered the state’s first specimen at the beginning of the month, state environmental officials said.

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The winged pest, also known as Lycorma delicatula, is native to China

It was first detected in Pennsylvania in 2014 but appeared to have already been present for two to three years prior, according to the USDA National Invasive Species Information Center.

It has also been found in Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut and Virginia, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)

Close-up of spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) on peach tree, Berks County Pa.
(iStock)

The spotted lanternfly appears as big as a butterfly but with a moth-like appearance. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture states that an adult is approximately 1 inch long and half an inch wide at rest, with tan, semi-transparent forewings, black spots, patches of red and black and a white band and yellow and black abdomen.

The spotted lanternfly’s immature stages are black with white spots, and they develop the red patches as they mature.

Adults appear starting in July and in the fall adults lay 30 to 50 1-inch-long egg masses on tree trunks, firewood, rocks and vehicles. 

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The periodical cicadas in the eastern U.S. also laid their eggs in trees, so why is the spotted lanternfly “Public Enemy Number One?”

The USDA National Invasive Species Information Center says it poses a “serious economic threat to multiple U.S. industries.”

The insect feeds on agricultural crops like grapes, apples and hops as well as maple, walnut and willow trees.

Spotted Lanternfly (lycorma delicatula) infestations have caused Pennsylvania's Department of Agriculture to issue a quarantine invasive insect

Spotted Lanternfly (lycorma delicatula) infestations have caused Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture to issue a quarantine invasive insect
(iStock)

The Empire State says its presence could impact forests – making plants vulnerable to disease –  and the agricultural and tourism industries.

New York’s annual yield of apples and grapes – a combined value of $358.4 million – could be “greatly impacted” by infestations, the DEC said.

Signs of infestation include sap oozing from tree trunks; 1-inch-long, brownish-gray or brown and scaly egg masses; and honeydew build-up under plants. The lanternflies excrete honeydew, which encourages the growth of black sooty mold.

Multiple counties in Pennsylvania are now quarantined, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture said. 

Reports show New Jersey’s Somerset and Hunterdon counties are also under quarantine.

The message to people who believe they’ve seen these insects is clear: If you see something, say something…after you kill it. 

“Kill it! Squash it, smash it…just get rid of it,” the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture instructed.

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“If you see a Spotted Lanternfly, help us Stomp it Out,” New Jersey’s Department of Agriculture pleaded

Officials also encourage all “SLF” spotters and killers to submit public reports using state websites to be able to better understand the spread of this species.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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