Experts share warnings after scattered sightings of invasive Lanternfly

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By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter

Adult Spotted Lanternflies are gray and approximately one inch long, with black spots and red underwings. Photo/Walthery, used under creative commons license
Adult Spotted Lanternflies are gray and approximately one inch long, with black spots and red underwings.
(Photo/Walthery, Creative Commons)

REGION – There is not an active infestation of the Spotted Lanternfly in Massachusetts. 

But state officials are still warning community members to “be on the lookout” for the invasive insect known for devastating certain agricultural crops in Pennsylvania in particular. 

“It’s just the time of year when [a] spotted Lanternfly has reached the adult stage, and we’re starting to see reports come in of them hitchhiking into the state from other infested states,” said Jennifer Forman Orth, an environmental biologist Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources in a recent interview with the Community Advocate. 

 

State documents lanternfly sightings

Lanternflies have drawn attention in the region and in Northborough in particular. 

In May, the Department of Agricultural Resources said that it was “investigating the possible presence” of lanternflies in and around Northborough. 

Statewide, Forman Orth said the department has received two reports about potential lanternflies so far in this year’s growing season. 

“But it’s just the beginning of when they start to move around,” she said. “So, we’re expecting more.” 

Last year an individual lanternfly was found in Northborough after the insect hitchhiked from Pennsylvania on lawn furniture.

“There really isn’t a huge concern for us at this time,” Northborough Garden Club President Joyce Digregorio said.

All of the insects found so far in Massachusetts have been what the department classifies as “hitchhikers,” according to Forman Orth.

 

Lanternfly poses agricultural threat, experts say

The spotted lanternfly is an insect native primarily to Southeast Asia. It was found in Pennsylvania, however, in 2014. 

Since then, the lanternfly had wreaked havoc on certain communities, prompting a variety of responses from municipal and county leaders including increasingly strong warnings from officials. 

Join the battle. Beat the bug” read one graphic on the US Department of Agriculture’s website on Sept. 2.

“[They have] the potential to impact a really broad range of agricultural commodities,” Forman Orth said.

Those commodities could range from grapes to wine to hops to maple trees to apple and peach orchards, she said.

 

State asks residents to report Lanternfly sightings

According to a Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources press release, an adult Spotted Lanternfly is gray and approximately one inch long, with black spots and red underwings. The younger nymphs are black with white spots, while the older nymphs are red with black and white spots. 

Forman Orth said their main host plant is the Tree of Heaven, which she said is also an invasive plant species introduced to the United States from Asia. 

She said Trees of Heaven are often found in highly disturbed areas, like along rail tracks and in sidewalk cracks.

Anyone who thinks they see a Spotted Lanternfly should either take a photo or collect a specimen and contact the department through. For more information visit https://massnrc.org/pests/pestFAQsheets/spottedlanternfly.html