Invasive spotted lanternfly spreads in several states

The spotted lanternfly feeds on plant sap and excretes honeydew, which is damaging plants.

March 8, 2018
Edited by Megan Smalley

Several states are urging citizens to report sightings of the invasive spotted lanternfly, a sap-sucking insect native to Asia, Entomology Today reported. Entomology Today is a part of the Entomological Society of America that reports discoveries in the world of insect sciences.

In the summer of 2014 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, a state Game Commission officer spotted an unusual insect congregating in an ailanthus tree. It was a large plant hopper, about an inch long with distinctive spots and red hind wings. It was a spotted lanternfly. Just more than a month after this first report, Pennsylvania issued a quarantine in select counties in an attempt to restrict the spotted lanternfly’s movement, Entomology Today reported.

“This pest has such a tremendous potential to breed and increase its population size that it can overwhelm individual properties and entire communities almost overnight,” Sven-Erik Spichiger, entomology program manager for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, told Entomology Today.

According to Entomology Today, the lanternfly feeds on plant sap, which damages the plant, but greater harm comes as a result of the honeydew that the insect excretes in abundance. The fluid promotes the growth of sooty mold, which is particularly damaging to fruit crops.

The spotted lanternfly may have a preferred host – Tree of Heaven – but it will also feed on more than 70 other plant species, including grapes, hops and fruit trees. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also announced in February 2018 it was committing $17.5 million in emergency funding to stop the spread of the spotted lanternfly in southeastern Pennsylvania. According to Entomology Today, this was after spotted lanternflies were reported in New York and Delaware in fall of 2017 as well as Virginia in January of 2018.

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