Pennsylvania is facing a bug problem. It’s the first state to be inhabited by the Spotted Lanternfly, and the little bug is causing a big issue. It may seem harmless, but the the insect is causing damage to Pennsylvania’s trees and crops, which is negatively affecting the agriculture industry, and quality of life for residents 

“We see a significant nuisance problem. It’s disrupting these people’s way of life. We’re also seeing grape growers, tree fruit growers, and of course our environment be degraded from this bug,” says Heather Leach, a Spotted Lanternfly Extension Associate from Penn State Entomology.

First discovered in Berks County, the Spotted Lanternfly has spread to a handful of counties across the Pennsylvania. It’s native to China, India, and Vietnam. The insect is dangerous because while it feeds, it depletes nutrients in the plant, essentially killing it. 

“It is invasive in many ways. It’s invasive environmentally, it’s invasive economically, it’s invasive socially. And how do we control it, how do we respond as a state to that is really important,” says Russell Redding, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Agriculture.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has teamed up with Penn State and the USDA to track, contain, and stop the spread of the Spotted Lanternfly. While it’s up to them to put an end to this invasive species, the public’s vigilance is wanted and appreciated.

“The neat thing is while this is an essential role for Government to play, the cooperation and help of the people of Pennsylvania and the businesses of Pennsylvania make it a big difference,” says Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.

One of the biggest problems with the Spotted Lanternfly is how easily the insect is able to get around. It will hitch a ride on people, vehicles, or outdoor gear.

“We’ve got a plan, but that plan is predicated on individual residents being aware, being very vigilant as they travel they’re not taking it with them. This is an opportunist pest. That’s how it went from Berks County to now 15 counties in Pennsylvania. Dauphin County being the most recent there. We’re always sort of on the lookout for this pest.” Redding explains

Officials say keeping an eye out for the Spotted Lanternfly on vehicles and outdoor gear is essential. 

“Double check your car before you leave to go somewhere. If you’re taking the hunting gear or the camping gear, there may be that’s of course hatched out now, but looking very carefully at that,” Redding says.

“We need everybody’s eyes out there and making sure they’re reporting it back to us because if it does spread to say Center County or to up in Erie where there’s a large grape production, we need to know about it as soon as possible so that PDA’s people on the ground can make sure that we go out and kill that population and it doesn’t spread,” Leach adds.

If you find one, you should report it to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture by calling 1-888-4BADFLY (422-3359) Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm. You can also report a sighting online by visiting the following link: https://extension.psu.edu/have-you-seen-a-spotted-lanternfly.