Pennsylvania has been battling an invasive insect for four years, and now the spotted lanternfly has spread to New Jersey. Mercer, Hunterdon and Warren counties have issued quarantines, asking residents to inspect items for the insects before taking those things beyond the county lines.
Articles most likely to carry the insect native to China, India and Vietnam include bicycles, tents, motorhomes, plant containers, and lawnmowers. A complete list of quarantine items can be viewed here.
Spotted lanternflies threaten the state’s agricultural industry because they suck the sap from plants and secrete a sugary substance that causes a harmful mold to grow, said Joe Zoltowski of the state Department of Agriculture.
“It could kill off your soybeans,” he said. “It could degrade the quality of your corn. It could reduce the sugar content for the vineyards, the grape industry, degrade the quality and reduce the sugars in your peaches or your strawberries.”
Residents of the quarantine areas are urged to look carefully for the red insects with white spots.
“They’re good hitchhikers. The nymphs will jump in cars. It’s summertime, it’s hot, people get out of their cars, they leave their windows open a little bit to let some air movement in there,” said Zoltowski. “These insects have been known to just crawl in there and be on the roof of your car, under your seat. They can hop on people’s clothes, on their backs.”
Zoltowski said spotted lanternflies need to feed on the invasive species called “tree of heaven” to mature and lay eggs. State workers are spot-treating those trees with pesticides to rid them of the insects.
“They’re adapting pretty quickly. We see them swarming. We see different behavior, things that no one has ever seen before. We see them feeding on Christmas trees,” Zoltowski said. “It’s always tough to eradicate insect infestations. We have done it before. It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort.”
The state Department of Agriculture asks residents to take these actions if they find spotted lanternflies:
• What to do: If you see egg masses, scrape them off, double bag them and throw them away. You can also place the eggs in alcohol, bleach or hand sanitizer to kill them.
• Collect a specimen: Specimens of any life stage can be turned in to the department’s lab for verification.
• Take a picture: With your GPS function turned on your smartphone or a camera with GPS, take a photograph of any life stage, including egg masses.
• Submit a picture to SLFfirstname.lastname@example.org
• Report a site: If you can’t take a specimen or photograph, call New Jersey Spotted Lanternfly Hotline at 1-833-223- 2840 (BADBUG0)and leave a message detailing your sighting and contact information.