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July 11, 2018

The spotted lanternfly has made its way to Pa., and people are trying everything to kill them

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

People across Pa. have been catching lanterflies with sticky paper taped around trees, where the insects are usually seen.

The spotted lanternfly has invaded Pennsylvania and officials are saying it has the potential to be the most invasive insect pest ever to arrive in the U.S.

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It's suspected the insects arrived in Berks County around 2012 from Asia on a boat or plane carrying imported goods. They eat trees and munch on vines, so state officials want to stop the spread of the insect. It has the potential to disrupt the grape, hops and logging industries, according to the Pa. Department of Agriculture.

About $20 million has been spent this year on research and eradication efforts and the USDA will hire about 100 people and spend $17.5 million to stop the spread of these flies, according to a report from State Impact.

This summer, the flies are popping up like never before — residents are noticing them all over trees in their back yards and are working to remove them before they grow to adulthood.

How to spot them: At rest, the flies are 1-inch long and 1- to 2 inches wide. Immature lanternfly nymphs are black with white spots and develop red patches as they grow.

Environmental officials are recommending homeowners take measures to catch the pests by using sticky tape around trees. Some even recommend using essential oils like spearmint or peppermint to attract them. Vaseline also reportedly works well to trap the insects, but won't hurt birds.

Other neighbors have reported putting out ports of still water, pressure washing trees and spraying weeds with vinegar.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the flies leave egg masses that have a grey, mud-like covering that can take on a dry, cracked appearance over time. Old egg masses appear as rows of 30 to 50 brownish, seed-like deposits in columns of four to seven on the trunk, roughly an inch long. 

Officials warn that if you see egg masses, scrape them off, double bag them and throw them away. You can also place the eggs into alcohol or hand sanitizer to kill them.