A new invasive pest is spreading through Southeast Pennsylvania after it was spotted for the first time in the United States in Berks County last fall.
The spotted lanternfly is an inch-long black, red and white flying insect native to Asia.
Because the fly has no natural enemies, its population could multiply rapidly, said Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture entomology program manager Sven-ErikSpichiger.
“Unfortunately it feeds on over 65 different types of trees, vines and other herbaceous material,” Spichiger said. “We are most concerned with the impact that it might have on grape and grape production, because Pennsylvania is fifth in grape production in the nation.”
The state expanded a quarantine to almost two dozen townships and boroughs in Berks, Montgomery, Bucks and Chester counties last week in an attempt to keep the invasive pest contained.
Movement of any material or object that could spread the pest is restricted in quarantine zones, including wood, yard waste, construction material and household equipment stored outdoors including lawnmowers, grills and vehicles.
“It doesn’t mean that you can’t move your RV out of the quarantine zone,” Spichiger said. “What it means is that you download the self checklist, you make sure that you give it a good, thorough inspection, and that you sign off that you did so.”
A Department of Agriculture press release detailed what to look for when keeping an eye open for signs of the invasive pest:
“Adults often cluster in groups and lay egg masses containing 30-50 eggs that adhere to flat surfaces including tree bark. Freshly laid egg masses have a gray waxy mudlike coating, while hatched eggs appear as brownish seedlike deposits in four to seven columns about an inch long. Trees attacked by the spotted lanternfly will show a gray or black trail of sap down the trunk.”
The insects attack grapes, apples, pines and stone fruits and lay gray egg masses on their bark and other flat surfaces.
Residents in affected counties can learn which townships and boroughs are under quarantine and download a spotted lanternfly quarantine checklist from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture website.