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March 01, 2019

Pennsylvania will have 150 researchers trying to eradicate the spotted lanternfly in 2019

Penn State University and the state and federal departments of agriculture are committing resources to combat the invasive insect

Pests Insects
spotted Lanternfly French Creek French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust/Facebook

Pennsylvanians have been catching the invasive spotted lanternflies with sticky paper wrapped around tree trunks. Immature nymphs of the insect are black with white spots and develop red patches as they grow, as seen above.

If the spotted lanternfly made its way into your part of Pennsylvania this summer, you’ll remember the kind of all-encompassing nuisance the insect represents. If it didn’t, count yourself lucky.

Here’s a quick reminder of what an invasion looks like:

That’s not great!

The insect — which was first seen in the United States in Pennsylvania back in 2014, and has since spread across the Delaware Valley and beyond — has been such a headache that the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Penn State University are fighting back in 2019, according to the Reading Eagle.

Those three outfits are combining forces to put 150 researchers and experts on the case of studying the bug and controlling its spread this year, Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said in Reading, Pennsylvania, on Thursday.

Outside of being public nuisances when they swarm, spotted lanternflies feed on a variety of trees including, but not limited to, pine, sugar, maple, cherry, apple, and Tree of Heaven trees. The insects leave wounds on the trees’ trunks, which damages the trees and also attracts other pests.

Full eradication won’t be possible in 2019, Redding said, but it’s on the horizon.

According to Redding, Gov. Tom Wolf is proposing a $5 million fund in the agriculture department's budget that would be spent towards containing threats to crops or farm animals. Of that fund, $3 million is earmarked specifically for studying and containing spotted lanternflies in Pennsylvania.

Redding did admit that, while the state is dedicated to combatting the insects, there’s still plenty researchers and experts don’t know.

"This story is still being written, the spotted lanternfly (story),” Redding told the newspaper. “Each year is kind of a different chapter. We've learned a lot but I'd be the first to tell you that there's also a lot we don't know."

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