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New Invasive Pest Is Threatening East Coast
The Spotted Lanternfly

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Thought to be accidently introduced to the United States in 2012, the spotted lanternfly looks as menacing as it is destructive.


The Spotted Lanternfly, or Lycorma delicatula, is a plant hopping, winged insect native to China, India and Vietnam that was first found in the United States in 2014. The first sighting of the pest was in Berks County, Pennsylvania, and since the initial reporting, has been found across thirteen counties. Officials are worried that the pest may continue to spread, as the West Virginia and Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture are asking residents to be on the lookout for this invasive species and report any sightings.

This insect can grow to be as large as two inches long and is named after the black spots found on the back of its wings. The "lantern" prefix was attributed because it was originally thought that the insect naturally emitted an illumination at night, however this is false and no light emanates from the creature. Also, even though the organism has wings, it actually hops from plant to plant more than it ever flies.

The spotted lanternfly has a lifespan of about one year and can lay its eggs on any smooth surface including: cars, houses, rocks, trees and farming equipment left outside. On average, this insect can lay about thirty to fifty eggs at one time. These egg masses are roughly the size of a quarter and are identifiable by their yellowish-brown color and their dry, waxy texture.

The spotted lanternfly mainly targets barky hardwood trees, most notably willows, apple trees, cherry trees and peach trees. Once it has found a host tree, the insect will feed off of the tree by piercing the bark tissue with its specialized mouth and begin to eat the sap. After the pest is done feeding, the sugary sap will leak from the tree and coat the trunk and the base. If this is done to an extensive amount, the tree might die or be severely stunted. Furthermore, the collection of sap on the trunk and base of the tree can also attract insects, such as wasps and ants, which can also cause problems. To date, the most extensive destruction by this pest has occurred in Korea, as the spotted lanternfly has significantly reduced yields of grapes and has had a noticeable impact on wine productivity.

Fortunately, spotted lanternflies are not known to bite humans or pets and are not poisonous. However, the insect has the potential to damage crop yields and hinder natural old growth trees in the environment. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture states on their website that if you "see egg masses, scrape them off, double bag them and throw them away. You can also place the eggs into alcohol or hand sanitizer to kill them." Moreover, the department also asks that you report any sightings of, or interactions with, the spotted lanternfly by calling the Automated Invasive Species Report Line at 1-866-253-7189 or by visiting their website www.agriculture.pa.gov.







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Last Updated 12-11-17
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