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It's 'not if' but 'when' this pesky insect will spread across PA; here's how to eliminate the bug now

36 counties in PA are in what's called 'a quarantine zone'. That means there is a known infestation in part(s) of the area. People can get ahead of the insects now.

LANCASTER, Pa. — Editors note: The above video is from September, 2020.

What's about an inch and a half long when fully grown with red and black hind wings that crawls, jumps, and flies, plus its eggs can survive the harsh winter conditions?

"The spotted lanternfly - the little friend we have from overseas," said Craig Sansig with Viking Pest Control.

Entomologists say the invasive bug's population is growing exponentially in Pennsylvania. Consider this: Just one female spotted lanternfly can lay up to 150 eggs. Now, take the insect's potential for travel. On its own, researchers say the insect can move between 5 and 10 miles, and that's just what they know right now. They say there is still so much to learn about the insect.

"I think, at some point, it's not if it's when, Pennsylvania and surrounding states will have healthy populations of lanternfly," said Heather Leach, a spotted lanternfly associate for Penn State Extension.

36 counties in Pennsylvania are now in what's called 'a quarantine zone'. That means there is a known infestation in those areas.

"It's really highly recommended that people inspect their vehicles, inspect trailers, inspect things they may be moving to uninfested areas to keep these pests from being transferred unintentionally," added Sansig.

On top of that, businesses that move things into and out of those areas must now have a spotted lanternfly permit. 

"Basically, it's just know how to recognize the insect and how to not take it with you when you go," said Shannon Powers, a spokesperson for the PA Dept. of Agriculture.

Spotted lanternfly, an invasive species first discovered in 2014 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, has the potential to cause considerable damage to many valuable crops in Pennsylvania and beyond. To stop its spread, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture issued a quarantine for counties where the presence of this pest has been confirmed.

While the insects' eggs won't hatch until mid-April and May, pest control groups say it's important people start looking for them now.

"People don't realize they have a large infestation until the nymphs and babies grow up. Right now, it's especially critical to look for signs of the pest," said Sansig.

Sansig says to look for egg masses on trees which appear like mud and either smash or scrape them.

"My colleagues kind of describe this as popping bubble wrap, but only bit more gorey. You want to get a good even smash, take something flat and hard that will full crush the eggs in the egg mass," explained Leach.

Experts say people can also scrape the eggs into a bag or container filled with sanitizer or alcohol which will prevent the eggs from hatching.

You can see a video of these processes on Penn State Extension's website.

For more on the spotted lanternfly, follow this link from the Dept. of Ag.

You can learn more on PA's quarantine list here.

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