May 6, 2024 - News

Spotted lanternflies are back for a 10th year

A spotted lanternfly

You're encouraged to destroy this bug on sight. Photo: Andy Lavalley/Post-Tribune/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty

Pennsylvania's war against spotted lanternflies begins anew this spring: The bugs will be back in the coming weeks.

Why it matters: While the invasive pests native to China won't bite or attack you, they can devastate the state's grape, hops and timber industries.

State of play: A decade since the polka-dotted insect first appeared in the U.S. in Berks County, 52 of the state's 67 counties now have active infestations.

The big picture: Spotted lanternflies have spread to more than a dozen other states, including New York, New Jersey and Virginia.

Zoom in: The threat from the invasive bugs is growing in some parts of Pennsylvania (👋 Westmoreland and Allegheny counties), but it has declined in others, state Department of Agriculture spokesperson Shannon Powers tells Axios.

  • Philly is way less buggy.

By the numbers: The following are reported spotted lanternfly sightings in counties in 2019 compared to 2023, per state data:

  • ⬇️ Philadelphia: 11,548 ('19) vs. 308 ('23)
  • ⬇️ Bucks: 7,213 vs. 73
  • ⬇️ Montgomery County: 17,524 vs. 171
  • ⬆️ Allegheny County: 23 vs. 20,716

The intrigue: Lanternflies are attracted to buzzing power lines, and USDA scientists are studying ways they could use vibration to help control the bug population as an alternative to insecticide.

Threat level: The lanternflies' feeding habits pose the most risk to Pennsylvania's grape and hops production, as well as immature trees and young plants grown at nurseries.

  • The insects haven't damaged mature hardwood trees as much as state officials originally believed, Powers says.

🍯 1 cool thing: When life gives you spotted lanternflies, make honey.

💥 Pro tips: Killing the bugs and their egg masses is encouraged.

What's next: Spotted lanternflies are expected to hatch between now and June, and reach full maturity starting in July.

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