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Spotted Lanternfly quarantine expanded to 13 counties, spotted in Schuylkill County

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(WOLF) -- The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is asking for the public’s help in stopping an pest in its tracks.

The Spotted Lanternfly is an invasive species from Asia and has now been detected in our area.

Its multi-colored wings are quite beautiful, but agricultural experts say that pretty little bug has the potential to greatly impact the fruit farming and logging industries – and its all-hands-on-deck to make sure they don’t spread even further.

Native to China, India, and Vietnam, the Spotted Lanterfly is relatively new to Pennsylvania.

The bug was first discovered in Berks County back in the fall of 2014.

It’s a major invasive pest in South Korea and has attacked 25 plant species there that also grow in Pennsylvania.

“Our concern is that it would be piercing and sucking things like grapes, the tree fruit, even our hardwoods. And hardwoods in Pennsylvania are a huge industry that’s something like $12 billion in sales annually,” Susan Hyland, Master Gardener Coordinator at Penn State Cooperative Extension in Pottsville, said.

Since 2014, the state Department of Agriculture has closely been monitoring the movement of the Spotted Lanterfly.

Quarantines were previously put into effect in six southeastern counties, but at the beginning of this month, that quarantine grew by seven counties, including three in our region: Monroe, Carbon, and Schuylkill.

Not all of the new counties have confirmed spottings, but the bugs were detected along the border of Schuylkill and Berks counties – not far from Heim’s Fruit Farm in McKeansburg.

Owner John Heim says he’s worried about the new threat.

“This is going to be a lot harder to control. I’ve talked to other growers down in Lehigh County and they said they’ve really had to fight with it, so I’m not looking forward to having to deal with it here, but it looks like we’re going to have to,” Heim said.

Heim says its too soon to tell what effect the lanterfly will have on crops. He plans to combat the pest by close monitoring and insecticides.

“This is a leaf hopper so it can be controlled by insecticides. By the time they get to be adults though, they’re mobile, they have pretty much a shield. You saw as they sit and feed they’re folded and covered, they’re not nearly as vulnerable,” Hyland said.

Experts say the best way to get rid of the Spotted Lanterfly is while they’re in egg form, but they’re hard to spot.

The bug lays egg masses on flat, smooth surfaces that are a grey-brown color and later look like dried mud, each mass contains 35-50 eggs, and anyone can get and should get rid of them if found, not just farmers.

“You can use something stiff like a putty knife or your credit card and scrape them off, you need to get all of them off those because any eggs left behind will then hatch,” Hyland said.

After scraping the eggs off any surface, experts say they should be placed in alcohol or hand sanitizer to kill them.

Any fully-grown insects or eggs found especially outside of quarantined areas should be reported to the state Department of Agriculture by emailing a photograph to badbug@pa.gov.

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