BETHLEHEM, PA - Temperatures might have dropped across the Lehigh Valley, but reports of the Spotted Lanternfly are reaching a new high.
"It’s a crucial time to kill them," explains Press Secretary for the PA Department of Agriculture, Shannon Powers, "because each Spotted Lanternfly this year, each female, can mean 50 babies next spring."
In the first seven months of 2020, reports of the Spotted Lanternfly surged 147% in the state. Just this year, the Department of Agriculture added another 12 counties to the already 14 county large quarantine zone for the insect; leading Secretary Russell Redding to urge those traveling from infested areas to new areas to help prevent hitchhiking lanternflies.
"As people are on the move in the fall, whether you are going to camping sites, you’re out to hunt, you’re doing things, family activity, please make sure that you are taking all the precautions," Secretary Redding explained in a September press conference, "checking the vehicle, checking your materials, that you’re not transporting this somewhere else."
The insect native to Asia is capable of decimating entire grape vineyards and damaging fruit orchards, hops, walnuts, hardwoods and decorative trees; affecting industries that contribute billions to the state’s economy. Lanternflies are actively searching for mates and locations to lay eggs.
"It’s really the adults that are the most troublesome stage; they move the most, they’re the ones that fly into vineyards in big numbers and suck the life out of the vineyards," Richard Roush, Dean at Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences echoed Redding's plea. "They’re the ones that spread eggs onto hosts and other commodities like Christmas trees that they don’t even feed on. But not only is that a threat for spreading the pest but also it has led to some wholesalers rejecting trees from Pennsylvania."
Residents across the state are asked to identify, document and kill the bug in order to protect the commonwealth’s economy and prevent attacks on the state’s food supply.
"Stomp them, squish them and report them to start with," Powers tells PBS39 News, "Based on a Penn State economic impact study, reseachers found that Spotted Lanternflies risk sucking $324 million dollars from our economy every year and that poses an additional risk to 2,800 jobs. So, they are a threat to our economy and to agriculture in particular where farms and agriculture businesses have been working so hard to keep food on people’s tables they are a risk to that work."
To report the lanternfly, call the hotline 1-888-422-3359 or visit Penn State Extension’s spotted lanternfly website.