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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
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.

Editors note: Some readers may find a photo of a fatally injured bird in this story disturbing.

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 wrapping sticky tape around trees so that when the flies crawl up tree trunks, they become stuck in the tape. Some even recommend using essential oils like spearmint or peppermint to attract them. 

Smearing Vaseline on top of the sticky tape also reportedly works well to trap the insects, but won't hurt birds. 

Michele Wellard, the assistant director of wildlife rehabilitation with the Philadelphia Metro Wildlife Center, said the center has received five birds over the past few weeks that have been trapped in the sticky tape used to trap lantern flies and suffered fatal or near-fatal injuries.

Courtesy of Michele Wellard/for PhillyVoice

A woodpecker was fatally trapped in sticky tape used to catch spotted lantern flies.

Others recommend putting out pots of still water, pressure washing trees and spraying weeds with vinegar to avoid harming birds and other wildlife with sticky tape.

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.