While murder hornets are invading the western United States, another critter is wreaking havoc on the east coast.
Spotted lanternflies were first discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014 and have since spread across thirteen states, causing problems for crops, trees, and anything else they can land on.
“They have a honeydew substance that they excrete all over the plants and lawn furniture,” New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher said. “It’s messy, nobody likes it.”
The honeydew substance leads to growth of black mold that can damage anything it covers. Because of this, authorities want people to destroy the lanternflies.
“They’ll reveal those red wings — that’s how you know it’s a spotted lanternfly,” a New York City park ranger said. “So if you see them, we want you to identify it — and we want you to squish it!”
In an effort to minimize the spread of the spotted lanterflies, officials encourage residents to inspect vehicles, trailers or outdoor items for the bugs before moving them.
“They hitchhike on rail yards and boat yards and anywhere they can — on trucks, cars,” Fisher said. “So the public, we’re engaging the public to also help.”
Native to Asia, the insects aren’t a threat to humans or pets, but have done millions of dollars worth of damage since they were first discovered at Vynecrest Vineyards and Winery in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.
“We’ve had at least 2 acres of replants [in] the last four years,” Vynecrest Vineyards and Winery partner Sam Landis said. “You can spray, you can basically wipe out a million of them in one day, and the next day, they’re all back.”
In 2020, researchers at Penn State found that damage to Pennsylvania agriculture has cost the state $50.1 million every year and eliminates an estimated 484 jobs every year. Those industries most affected by the spotted lanternfly infestation include nurseries, fruit growers, Christmas tree growers, and hardwood producers.
Learn more about spotted lanternflies and their move across the northeast in the video below.