STROUDSBURG, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — You’ve probably seen some of these guys flying around this summer: the spotted lanternfly.
They’ve been spreading quickly and it seems little is known about the bugs even as they multiply and spread across the state.
The spotted lanternfly is an invasive sap-sucking insect that was first introduced to the U.S. in Pennsylvania seven years ago. Professor Matthew Wallace with East Stroudsburg University says it likely happened by accident.
“So they’re spreading by humans we think. They lay eggs in the fall on various structures including cars and containers that can be transported across the country,” Wallace said.
That’s how the insects likely landed in Berks County in 2014. Now seven years later, the bugs have spread across Pennsylvania en masse.
“Currently there are 34 counties in Pennsylvania under a quarantine. We know they are established and more counties are added each year. They spread northeast and into New Jersey,” Wallace said.
While the insects are not predators, do not bite, and are not directly dangerous to humans, these pests may cost the country a lot of money for one reason. Their food source.
“The estimate is in the billions because they feed on important crops like apples and peaches and especially grapes. The potential loss is high,” Wallace said.
This potential loss is driving scientists across the northeast to research the bugs immediately.
“We’re doing a lot of interesting research in northeastern Pennsylvania. We have some people working with the USDA, working with East Stroudsburg University, looking at their biology and finding out maybe how they communicate. That could help us in trapping them and finding out their population numbers,” Wallace said.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a pesticide or a mass means of killing the insects yet, so until a process is found…
“Squashing them with your shoes is the most effective method. So if you see one, step on it,” Wallace said.
A seemingly simple method to deal with a complicated problem.
Wallace also says that we are still in the early stages of researching this species. There is a lot of work still to be done to find out how to limit the spread of this invasive pest.