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Invasive Spotted Lanternflies Sighted In Eastern Panhandle

A spotted lanternfly on a leaf in a natural surrounding
Cwieders/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Adult lanternflies have a purple-gray wing pattern with black dots. When the wings are spread, the underside is yellow.

Sightings of spotted lanternflies have been reported in the Eastern Panhandle as the invasive species begin to mature this season. The Department of Agriculture reports sightings in four counties: Berkeley, Jefferson, Hampshire and Mineral.

Lanternflies were first sighted in the area two years ago and are believed to have bypassed a quarantine in Pennsylvania and introduced through cargo shipments along Interstate 81. The insects feed on popular crops, including a variety of tree fruit, and have the potential to cause harm to the country’s orchard and logging industries.

Emily Morrow, the WVU Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension agent in Jefferson County, says while the infestation is not as severe as it is in neighboring states, it is important to stop the spread.

Canopy of Ailanthus altissima with unripe seeds against blue sky in mid September
apugach/Getty Images/iStockphoto
A typical host of spotted lanternflies are trees of heaven, an invasive species native to China.

“We do advise folks to kill whatever they can, if they can,” Morrow said. “If you find egg masses in the fall and winter months, if you can scrape those off and apply rubbing alcohol, that will keep the eggs from hatching.”

The state’s Department of Agriculture recommends reporting any lanternfly sightings.

“Reporting still is very, very important throughout the state, because we can catch the population early on,” said James Watson, coordinator for the department’s spotted lanternfly program. “There's a chance that we could eradicate that population if it's small enough and confined to a small location, such as one or two properties.”

Watson says there is a chance the department will contact the owners of the properties the lanternflies have been spotted on to eradicate the bugs from the properties in the future.

Reports of lanternfly sightings can be made to the Department of Agriculture by calling 304-558-2212 or via email at bugbusters@wvda.us. More information is also available on the department’s website.

Eastern Panhandle Reporter, ssnyder@wvpublic.org, 304-449-4653

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