(Above) Adult Lanternflies. Photo: Kristen Wickert, WVDA
A new menace has arrived in the county. Unlike the recent swarms of cicadas (or the more mysterious Mothman), the spotted lanternfly is an invasive species that will attack and kill many native trees, including black walnut, maple, peach, and apple trees. It will even attack grapevines. The first US sighting of this insect was near Philadelphia in 2014. Since then it has spread widely through the eastern half of Pennsylvania. Clusters have been identified in Mineral and Berkeley counties. The cluster in Jefferson County was spotted in May, just to the west of Kearneysville.
What to Look For
After hatching in early May, the nymphs are tiny (about the size of a pinkie fingernail) and have a black body with white spots. By June they are a little larger, with red markings on their backs. By the end of June and into July they molt into their adult form (see feature image) with wings and are similar in size to a cicada (about the size of the end of your thumb). The wings are whitish in color with black spots.
Harpers Ferry National Park has some good identification images of the Spotted Lanterfly on its website.
What to Do
Dr. Kristen Wickert of the WV Department of Agriculture (WVDA) had a simple request for anyone who spots this bug. “Take a photo first. It moves quickly so it’s helpful to have a photo to confirm a sighting even if you miss killing it. Then kill it and send us the photo.” Property owners can contact the WVDA for free treatment — The WVDA will work with the US Department of Agriculture to apply traps, sticky bands, and other targeted treatments that do not harm native pollinators to stop outbreaks and there is no charge to the landowner.
“What we’re trying to do is buy some time to understand how to control this bug. It’s been six years since we first encountered it and we’re working on targeted and effective solutions that are safe for our native species.”
To send a photo or report a spotted lanternfly sighting, email BugBusters@wvda.us. You can also call 304-558-2212.
More information is available at the Penn State Extension website at Extension.PSU.edu/spotted-lanternfly.By Staff Contributor