PSU warns about Spotted Lanternfly

Although its name and reputation may be unfamiliar to many in Central Pennsylvania, the spotted lanternfly, an invasive insect species, has been menacing large swaths of the Commonwealth, and with move-in and Nittany Lions football set to brings travelers from all across the Keystone State, University extension is partnering with state agencies to raise awareness and control the spread of this troublesome pest.

Penn State wants to make sure those visitors are not chauffeuring a certain unwanted guest - the spotted lanternfly, a destructive insect that is threatening the agricultural, timber and ornamental industries in southeastern Pennsylvania. So far, the insect has been contained to a quarantine zone consisting of 14 counties -- Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia and Schuylkill -- and those on the frontlines of combating the pest want to keep it that way.

Map of PA counties affected by Spotted Lanternfly

Penn State is asking visitors, especially those coming from southeastern Pennsylvania, to take the following precautions before traveling:

  • Walk around your vehicle and check closely for any spotted lanternfly adults and/or nymphs; particularly check the windshield wiper area, bumpers and wheel wells. In fall and winter, also look for egg masses, which have the appearance of mud splatters. On RVs, check the roofs as well.
  • Check any piece of equipment or item that you will be transporting that has been outdoors in the quarantine area -- such as grills, tents, tables or yard games.
  • Do not park your RV or other vehicles under trees in the quarantine zone. Always keep your windows up.
  • Check yourself before getting into any vehicle to make sure there are no spotted lanternfly nymphs or adults on you.

"With the influx of visitors to campus this time of the year, we are concerned that they may unknowingly spread the insect during their travels," said Heather Leach, Penn State's spotted lanternfly extension associate. "Keeping the spotted lanternfly from invading other parts of the state and beyond is imperative while we work toward developing long-term management and control solutions. Citizens play an important role in helping to stop the spread of this pest."

Life stages of the Spotted Lanternfly

According to a Penn State Extension website set up to share information about this issue, Lycorma delicatula, commonly known as the Spotted Lanternfly (SLF), is a new invasive insect that has spread throughout southeastern Pennsylvania since its discovery in Berks County in 2014. SLF presents a significant threat to Pennsylvania agriculture, including the grape, tree-fruit, hardwood and nursery industries, which collectively are worth nearly $18 billion to the state's economy. 

Spotted lanternflies feed on the sap of a plant and when there are high populations of them, they can cause significant damage. They feed on over 70+ plants, including important forestry and agricultural crops. Spotted lanternfly was first discovered in the United States in Berks County, PA in 2014. It has since spread throughout 13 counties in southeastern Pennsylvania, which the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has designated as a spotted lanternfly quarantine zone. In 2017, spotted lanternfly was also found in Frederick County in Virginia. In 2018, three New Jersey counties (Mercer, Warren, and Hunterdon) were quarantined for spotted lanternfly.

Because spotted lanternflies lays eggs on almost any surface, including vehicles like rail cars and trailers, as well as outdoor equipment and patio furniture, the pest is easily spread by people. Both the U.S. and Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture are working on control and eradication measures in the quarantine zone. Primarily, this involves removing their preferred host (an invasive plant called tree-of-heaven), and leaving “trap trees”, which are trees baited with insecticides to kill the spotted lanternflies.

For more information about the spotted lanternfly, visit the Penn State Extension website at https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly

 

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