Pa. has a solution to spotted lanternfly problem: Squish them

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
This Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, photo shows a spotted lanternfly at a vineyard in Kutztown, Pa. The spotted lanternfly has emerged as a serious pest since the federal government confirmed its arrival in southeastern Pennsylvania five years ago this week. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The state's solution to eradicating an invasive species is easy: squish, step and smack them when spotted.

The spotted lanternfly — an invasive pest with bright red and white wings and black spots — is out in full force once again in Pennsylvania. The Asian native plant-hopper was first discovered in Berks County in 2014 and has since populated 33 additional counties — including York.

The bug, if uncontrolled, can be detrimental to native plants and the lumber and agriculture industries, the state Department of Agriculture reported.

What can be done to stop this pest?

The state has a simple solution: squish them.

"Kill it. Squash it. Smash it — just get rid of it," the state Department of Agriculture said in a news release. "In the fall, these bugs will lay egg masses with 30-50 eggs each. These are called bad bugs for a reason, don't let them take over your county next."

(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.

The state also encourages individuals to report spotted lanternflies by calling 1-888-422-3359 or reporting them at services.agriculture.pa.gov/SLFReport/.

The spotted lanternfly can be identified by its distinct white, red and black wings featuring patches of black spots. Immature lanternflies are black with white spots and develop red patches as they grow, according to the state.

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"In counties infested and quarantined for spotted lanternfly, residents report hundreds of these bad bugs that affect their quality of life and ability to enjoy the outdoors during the spring and summer months," the state announced.

York County is within this quarantine zone for the spotted lanternfly — and eight new counties were added to the state's list in 2021.

A total of 34 counties are part of the state Department of Agriculture's spotted lanternfly quarantine. Among those counties includes York and Lancaster. Credit: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

In addition to reporting and squashing, individuals who want to help stop these pests can use pesticide applications and remove "Tree-Of-Heaven," an invasive tree that can play host to the spotted lanternfly. 

The spotted lanternfly mainly feeds on sap from plants, including grapevines, maples, black walnut, birch and willow trees. This feeding can cause damage or decay to Pennsylvania's native fauna, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

"The SLF can impact the viticulture, fruit tree, plant nursery and timber industries, which contribute billions of dollars each year to PA's economy," the state said in a news release. "A 2019 economic impact study estimates that, uncontrolled, this insect could cost the state $324 million annually and more than 2,800 jobs."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.

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