Agricultural extensions have never seen anything like the spotted lanternfly, a leaf-hopping pest that recently overran southeastern Pennsylvania — and is poised to invade Maryland for the first time this spring. The spotted lanternfly appears to have caused more damage in less time than any invasive insect to arrive in the mid-Atlantic region, and it is proliferating more rapidly than the researchers can handle. Experts say a recent population explosion north of the Mason-Dixon line means the bug is all but certain to appear in northeastern Maryland sometime this spring.
The invader has harmed important crops including grapes, fruit trees, hop plants and hardwoods in more than a dozen Pennsylvania counties. Rather than consuming leaves, bark or fruit, the lanternfly uses its specialized mouthparts to penetrate a plant’s exterior, then sucks out the sweet, life-giving sap within. For instance, the lanternfly robs grapes of so much sweetness that farmers can’t bring them to market. They also stick to houses, decks, railings, and patios in infested areas.
You can help homeowners and farmers identify an infestation.
Helping homeowners and farmers spot an infestation on their own is a great way to build a trusting relationship with potential clients for years to come. When a homeowner calls with questions about whether they are facing an infestation, it is important to be able to describe the warning signs in a way they can easily follow. Many homeowners and farmers can spot and identify the lanternfly because of its distinctive coloring. The bug is so distinctive that 98 percent of the people who report spotted lanternfly sightings have identified them correctly.
A few promising countermeasures have emerged, like the use of specific pesticides, but so far, they’re developing more slowly than the bug is proliferating. Experts say there’s a chance they’ll find a way to eliminate the spotted lanternfly, but until then, their best hope is to try to slow its spread.
If you observe any egg masses or insects which look similar to this, please try to collect them, and inform the Maryland Department of Agriculture at (410) 841-5920 or DontBug.MD@maryland.gov(link sends e-mail) as soon as possible (please attach photos if sending an email).