Log In

Reset Password

Pa. on offensive to curb spotted lanternfly threat

At one stage of its life, the spotted lanternfly looks like a red and black creature from a scary monster movie.

However, the spotted lanternfly threat is real and the government is ready to do battle.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has allocated $17.5 million to halt the spread of the spotted lanternfly in Pennsylvania.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture the following counties are under quarantine for spotted lanternfly: Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia and Schuylkill.

The 13-county quarantine in Southeastern Pennsylvania is an attempt to restrict the movement of the spotted lanternfly.

The Lehigh Valley is at the epicenter of the battle to stop the invasive pest that threatens the livelihood of vineyard, fruit tree and forestry business owners in the state.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is already in the fray with 13 counties in southeastern Pennsylvania under a quarantine.

The Penn State Lehigh County Extension has been holding education seminars to enlist the aid of the public on the battleground’s front lines: their own backyards.

The spotted lanternfly, also known as a plant hopper, is adept at hitching rides on vehicles, firewood, and even Christmas trees to spread its menace.

“You’re going to do your best to check out your camper for the bug,” Randy Fey, master gardener, master watershed steward and forester for the city of Allentown said before the Spotted Lanternfly workshop in the Salisbury Township Municipal Building.

“What this program is about is awareness so that when it lands on their property, they know,” Fey said.

“This insect was here two years before anyone knew it was here,” Fey said.

First discovered

The spotted lanternfly was discovered in September 2014 in eastern Berks County. It is native to China, India and Vietnam and was introduced to Korea.

“It devastated their wine industry in three years,” Fey said of Korea.

Fey estimates the Spotted lanternfly could subject Pennsylvania agriculture to $19 billion in losses.

“Out in Berks County, it’s raining (spotted lanternflies),” Fey said.

Research began in 2014 in Pennsylvania. “They have to know how this bug is going to react.”

The spotted lanternfly population overwinters as egg masses and has a one-year life cycle. In Pennsylvania, the first nymphs hatch in late April to early May and are less than one-quarter-inch long. Adults begin to appear in mid-July and are about 1-inch-long and ½-inch wide with wings folded.

During his talk, Fey showed photographs of spotted lanternflies at various stages of their life, egg masses and the damage they’ve done to fruit trees.

Eggs everywhere

“They will lay their eggs everywhere,” Fey said.

“We’re trying to keep this in check until we can figure out how to eradicate it,” Fey said of the PDA’s spotted lanternfly program.

Displaying a photo of a spotted lanternfly egg mass, Fey said, “It can ferment in time and it can really stink.”

The gooey substance can attract ants. “Now you have more insects coming in,” Fey said.

The spotted lanternfly lands on cars and decks. “They congregate. It’s not like the stink bug that gets in your house,” Fey said.

They don’t bite. “But when you go after them, they jump like a grasshopper,” Fey said.

Fey said the Spotted lanternfly can fly 50 to 75 yards.

Fey recommends homeowners and residents check the following for the spotted lanternfly.

Household items, crated materials, vehicles (campers, trailers RVs), outdoor furniture, stone-tile decorative materials, firewood, nursery stock.

Fey showed a photo of a park bench with a mass of spotted lanternflies on the underside of the seat.

“The Lehigh Valley is a hub for tractor trailers and trains. You can imagine the impact that this is going to have,” Fey said.

Residents are urged to scrape off egg masses, bag them and destroy them.

They are also asked to collect specimens and submit them to the PDA, report spotted lanternfly site to 1-866-253-7189, and take a photo of them and send to: Badbug@pa.gov.

“If everybody does what they can for their own sites, we can get a handle on this,” Fey said.

Information: pda.state.pa.us/spotted lanternfly

Consuelo Almodovar and Diane Dorn, master gardeners with Penn State Lehigh County Extension, distribute Spotted Lanternfly education materials at a workshop in the Salisbury Township Municipal Building. PAUL WILLISTEIN/TIMES NEWS
A look at a spotted lanternfly, which have been located in four areas of Schuylkill County. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO