The spotted lanternfly is an invasive pest from Asia that arrived in the United States seven years ago. It is a handsome and colorful insect, but it feeds on the sap of more than 70 plant species, leaving them susceptible to disease and destruction from other natural antagonists. It destroys fruit crops, trees, and plants by hopping from plant to plant, crop to crop, and tree to tree.
Several states have established quarantines aimed at preventing the spread of the insects. Pennsylvania, where they were first detected in the U.S., issued an Order of Quarantine and Treatment that imposes fines and even potential criminal penalties on anyone who intentionally moves a spotted lanternfly, at any stage of its life, from one sort of location to another. The insects hop and fly only short distances, but they can hitch a ride on vehicles, clothing, and other objects that people bring with them. They have now spread to at least nine states, primarily in the Northeast.
Lanternflies arrived in New York City last year and quickly made it to the Most Wanted List for environmentalists. The City’s Parks Department says: “If you see a spotted lanternfly, squish it, dispose of it, and report it to us.” New York’s Department of Agriculture has asked people in the Finger Lakes region, home of numerous vineyards, to collect specimens and provide specifics on where they were found.
Lanternflies are harmless to humans, but they threaten everything from oak, walnut, and poplar trees to grapes, almonds, and fruit orchards. As the species continues to spread across the country, federal and state officials have a unified message: if you come across a spotted lanternfly, kill it.
Photo, posted August 30, 2018, courtesy of the USDA via Flickr.