Pennsylvania agriculture officials are adding a dozen new counties to the quarantine zone for the Spotted Lanternfly, including Allegheny and Beaver, bringing the total to 26 quarantined counties statewide.
The plant-hopping pest, with its bright red, white and black wings, is native to Asia, and was first found in the U.S. in Berks County, Pennsylvania in 2014. It has since moved into eastern counties where it threatens timber and fruit crops, especially grapes.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture calls it a “bad bug,” not only because it will fly in a person’s face or land on their neck, but also because the clear, sticky, sugary waste of thousands of them rains down onto pools and decks, wreaking havoc on home and business owners, and kids playing outside.
Adult lanternflies have not been found in Allegheny and Beaver counties yet, but the pest’s muddy-looking egg masses were found here last fall. Shannon Powers, Agriculture Department spokesperson, is asking people to be on the lookout for more, especially as spring arrives.
“You can scrape them off and destroy the eggs inside, very easily, you don’t need a special tool or anything,” she said. “And that keeps 30 to 50 eggs from hatching in the spring and becoming a major nuisance.”
Lanternflies aren’t flying across the state to the western counties, but they hop easily onto vehicles, according to Powers. That’s why the state is requiring businesses that truck goods in or out of quarantined counties to get a permit showing that their employees know how to identify and destroy Lanternfly adults, larvae and egg masses. According to Powers, the state has issued more than a million of these permits already.
The state is spending $3 million to respond to the threat.
According to state officials, the newly quarantined counties of Allegheny, Beaver, Blair, Columbia, Cumberland, Huntingdon, Juniata, Luzerne, Mifflin, Northumberland, Perry, and York, are not completely infested, but each has a few municipalities with a known infestation.
“Most of these municipalities have already been aggressively treated,” said Dr. Ruth Welliver, director of the Bureau of Plant Industry. “With continued aggressive treatment and monitoring, and an actively engaged community, we can strike Spotted Lanternfly from these counties.”
The state is currently issuing permits in all quarantined counties, and can issue fines up to $300 for criminal noncompliance or as much as $20,000 for a civil penalty. No fines have been issued to date, according Powers.