Wildlife officials urge people to kill invasive spotted lanternfly amid spread across US

A lanternfly is seen on the roof of an apartment in New York City, Aug. 8, 2022. NY State Department of Agriculture is encouraging residents to kill the invasive spotted lanternfly. Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

West Virginia (WOAY) – Wildlife officials and scientists encourage anyone who comes across the spotted lanternfly to kill it. The insect, whose scientific name is the Lycorma delicatula, feeds on at least 70 species of trees, vines, and shrubs. While insects are not hazardous to people or animals, they devastate agriculture. According to a 2019 Penn State University impact study, if the species spread through Pennsylvania, the damage could result in the state economy losing $554 million and over 4,000 jobs.

While the spotted lanternfly originates in Asia, it has migrated to the US and was discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014. It has since relocated to Northeast states such as Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia.

The insects favor warmer temperatures to support their growth and development, requiring a long growing season to complete their lifecycle. The bugs gather in large numbers, typically congregating in backyard trees and parks. The insects feed on trees and emit a sugary substance called honeydew which causes a mold-like substance. However, the lanternflies cannot kill trees.

According to the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, Female lanternflies can lay between 30 and 50 eggs, typically between September and October. Eggs hatch in the spring, producing baby lanternflies called nymphs which become fully grown by July.

The US Department of Agriculture advises people to check outdoor items for spotted lanternfly eggs, which resemble a mass covered in gray wax. Once identified, the USDA urges people to scrape them off, put the mass in a plastic zippered bag containing hand sanitizer and dispose of it. People can also use insecticides approved by the Environmental Protection Agency to kill insects without killing trees.

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