Look out, Massachusetts residents, because a rare insect species has been discovered in the area! In late September, state agriculture officials found the Spotted Lanternfly, an invasive pest native to China, in Worcester County.
Why is this important for residents to know?
Well, these insects are suspected to have made their way across the ocean through equipment shipments to Pennsylvania. Since 2014, they have been ravaging through nine states with no sign of stopping. Not only do they reproduce quickly, but they also move quickly. As opposed to other insects, Spotted Lanternflies like to leave their territories and travel abroad.
Spotted Lanternflies are known as planthoppers, which means that they spend their days skipping from one plant to the other. They especially like to snack on fruit trees and vines, which endangers the agricultural industry and native plants. Since this bug is foreign to the North American ecosystem, it is up to us to look out for these bugs and stop them from invading even further.
What does the Spotted Lanternfly look like?
As an adult, the spotted lanternfly is actually quite beautiful and easy to identify. It has a moth-shaped body that is covered by a set of large, black-spotted white wings. Beneath these wings, a smaller pair of wings are bright red and also spotted. It’s unique patterns are extremely noticeable when the Lanternfly spreads its wings.
As a nymph, they are much smaller and wingless. You will most likely spot them on trees and other plants because at this point in their young life, they are unable to fly. When they hatch out of their eggs, they start as a spotted black body and eventually turn a bright, spotted red.
Their eggs are also easy to catch on trees and rocks. The adults lay their eggs in rows which are then coated with a white coating that looks similar to mud or clay. As this dries, the egg mass forms cracks like cement. These masses are noticeable from a distance because they can be several inches in length.
Is the Spotted Lanternfly Harmful?
The Spotted Lanternfly might be a beautifully painted creature, but it has been wreaking havoc on the East Coast. These insects eat lots of plants, but their favorite snack is the Tree of Heaven. In addition to feasting on this tree, the Lanternfly also attacks vineyards, maples, and the native Black Walnut. Each year, this pest can cost the agriculture industry millions in losses.
However, there’s no need to worry about whether this bug will bite. The Spotted Lanternfly much prefers tree sap over humans. Its mandibles quite literally cannot bite people or pets, because it only has piercing mouthparts only to get inside of the bark.
What Should I do if I see one?
Hopefully you aren’t a bug-lover, because the Department of Agriculture urges you to squash it! The Spotted Lanternfly has no natural predators in North America, so it is up to us to reduce their population. Be alert for any eggs or insects in your own backyard, especially if it is home to maple and walnut trees.
Also check your car and any outdoor equipment for adults or their eggs before traveling across state lines. Lanternflies are notorious for traveling by hiding in vehicles, produce shipments, and landscaping shipments. Spotted Lanternflies are threatening our farmers, but with everyone’s eyes on watch for this invasive species, we can protect Massachusetts vineyards and our native trees.