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Be on the lookout for invasive insect species and report any sightings

Scientists are doing a better job these days of understanding the damage that can be done by invasive species. It has not been all that long ago that the damage to Eastern and Carolina hemlocks — the giants that made some untouched sections of forests look the enchanted woods of fairy tales — was attributed to “acid rain” by those who were desperate to bring attention to that particular problem. It turned out the trees were being destroyed by the hemlock woolly adelgid, and invasive species transplanted from Japan.

There are others of course, like the Asian Long-Horned Beetle, first discovered munching on ornamental trees in New York City and Chicago but now found throughout the northeast. Those came in untreated wooden packing crates from China.

Now, Pennsylvanians are being asked to watch out for the spotted lanternfly, an invasive species that can damage several kinds of plants, but is of great concern to the grape and wine industry. Spotted lanternflies like to dine on grape vines and fruit trees, hops, blueberry, oak, pine, poplar and walnut.

Mifflin, Juniata, Huntingdon and Perry counties are among those in Pennsylvania under an SLF quarantine order, which essentially means that any plant that could harbor the SLF cannot be moved, given away or sold and if the SLF is detected on someone’s property, it is the property owner’s responsibility to kill the pest. In total, there are currently 34 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties on the quarantine list. There are also quarantine orders for counties in the neighboring states of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

So, how do you know one of these pests when you see it? Experts say the SLF nymph can be identified by its red body, roughly a half-inch in size, with black stripes and white dots. During the late summer until roughly November, the SLF is in the adult moth stage. These adults are larger, roughly one inch in size, with black bodies and brightly colored wings.

So why should you care? Because it could do significant harm to Pennsylvania’s economy. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, a 2019 study estimates that, uncontrolled, this insect could cost the state $324 million annually and more than 2,800 jobs.

Keep an eye out, and alert the Pa. Department of Agriculture if you see one by calling 1-888-4BAD-FLY (1-888-422-3359) or report a sighting online at https://extension.psu.edu/have-you-seen-a-spotted-lanternfly.

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