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Spotted lanternflies are wreaking havoc across central PA

Spotted lanternflies are a threat to trees and fruit crops and have cost millions to Pennsylvania's economy.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Spotted lanternflies may seem colorful and majestic but The Department of Agriculture says they’re anything but.

“They're an invasive species, meaning they don't belong here,” said Shannon Powers of the Department of Agriculture.

The flies are native to China and were discovered in Berks County, Pennsylvania back in 2014.

Since then, the insects have caused Pennsylvania more than $50 million annually, according to a 2020 Penn State study.

Spotted lanternflies usually feed on a wide range of wooded trees and fruits.

"Whether its table grapes or any kind of grapes. It's one of their favorite places to destroy," Powers said.

Back in May, Pennsylvania began a statewide effort by spraying insecticides and dogs to help sniff out the creatures.

Experts say you may be seeing more flies than usual in October because they are pregnant.

"Their abdomen is fat and they're filled with eggs and they're looking for a place to lay those eggs. Every one you destroy now, mean 60 babies won't hatch next spring," Powers added.

The USDA says some signs or symptoms of spotted lanternflies include:

  • Plants that ooze or weep and have a fermented odor
  • Buildup of sticky fluid (honeydew) on plants and on the ground underneath infested plants
  • Sooty mold on infested plants

To prevent the flies, homeowners should:

  • Check outdoor items for spotted lanternfly egg masses, including those items you may bring indoors. 
  • Scrape any egg masses into a plastic zippered bag filled with hand sanitizer, then zip the bag shut and dispose of it properly.

  • Inspect your trees and plants for signs of this pest, particularly at dusk and at night when the insects tend to gather in large groups on the trunks or stems of plants.

For ways to report sightings of spotted lanternflies, you can click here.

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