13-county quarantine: Invasive insect getting closer to York

York Dispatch
(counterclockwise from bottom left): The development of a spotted lanternfly from birth to adulthood. The invasive insect native to parts of Asia has been found in 13 Pennsylvania counties, including Lancaster.

An invasive insect capable of harming Pennsylvania's agricultural industry is closing in on York County.

The spotted lanternfly, native to parts of Asia, was first found in Berks County in 2014 and has since spread to 12 other counties in the southeastern part of the state, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

Each of those counties, including Lancaster, has been quarantined as the department attempts to limit the species' movement and ultimately eradicate it from the state.

The department notes that the spotted lanternfly has the potential to greatly impact the state's grape, hops and logging industries, worth nearly $18 billion annually.

In the quarantined counties, businesses attempting to move certain materials across the state must get permits and training to thoroughly inspect all their products before shipment.

Tim Abbey, an educator for Penn State Extension, said that he hasn't seen any spotted lanternflies in York County yet, but he wouldn't be surprised if they showed up here this year.

Abbey said the quarantine would affect many local businesses beyond agricultural ones because the invasive insects could lay eggs — which appear as 30 to 50 brownish seed-like deposits — just about anywhere.

The spotted lanternflies typically hatch around May, appearing black with white spots and developing red patches as they grow, according to the department.

As they become adults, which Abbey said takes about 30 to 40 days, they develop wings with black blocks outlined in gray. The females will begin laying their eggs around September, and each generation will die once the weather turns cold, Abbey said.

The insects can be managed with insecticides, Abbey said, but the adults are difficult to kill because they can fly.

The department encourages anyone who finds a spotted lanternfly or suspicious egg mass to collect it, put it in a vial filled with alcohol or take a good picture and report it by emailing badbug@pa.gov or calling 1-888-422-3359.

— Reach reporter David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.