Laternflies’ return puts Massachusetts on alert

Those invasive, sap-sucking insects are back!

On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources announced the discovery of a spotted lanternfly infestation in Springfield.

The MDAR asks the public to be on the lookout for this insidious insect. Inspectors were sent to learn more about the extent of the infestation. Cities like Springfield with a large industrial area can become inadvertent hosts for this foreign pest, since it tends to hitchhike on trucks from infested states.

“With new populations of the spotted lanternfly likely to pop up more and more frequently as the invasive pest becomes established across the northeast, it is critical that we all remain diligent in identifying them early on,” said MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux.

“Anyone who sees this pest is asked to report it promptly. Early detection will help limit the spread of spotted lanternfly and give orchards, farms, and other growers time to prepare.”

The alarm’s been sounded on these pests because they pose a grave threat to the state’s agricultural sector and a nuisance to humans.

First discovered in Pennsylvania back in 2014, the spotted lanternfly is an invasive sap-feeding insect from Asia.

While the pest’s main host plant is tree-of-heaven, the spotted lanternfly can attack a wide variety of trees, shrubs and vines, and has the potential to impact a broad range of agricultural commodities, including apples, peaches, grapes and wine, hops and beer, maple syrup and ornamental plants, according to the MDAR.

They also swarm during mating season, curtailing outdoor activities.

While the spotted lanternfly has made inroads into the state over the last several years, surveys have found no evidence that it’s become established in Massachusetts—yet.

Those surveys continue both in the areas where the insects were found, as well as in other areas thought to be at high risk for this pest. A current map showing towns and cities where the insect has been found can be downloaded from https://massnrc.org/pests/slf.

In January, the MDAR identified an infestation on small groups of trees in Shrewsbury.

It was second time in the last year that a population of the invasive insect had been found in Massachusetts.

Back in August 2021, the newspaper reported that a single spotted lanternfly nymph was found in Fitchburg in late July, according to a press release from the MDAR.

Agricultural inspectors surveyed the area and didn’t find any evidence of an infestation.

While the MDAR wasn’t able to determine the origin of the insect, it could easily have been accidentally transported into the state on goods or vehicles traveling from one of several states currently under a lanternfly quarantine.

States on that list include Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia,

“This most recent find is a good reminder to everyone that there is a significant risk that the spotted lanternfly will continue to accidentally be brought into Massachusetts from other states,” MDAR Commissioner Lebeaux said at the time.

Due to that discovery, the MDAR urged the public to be on the lookout for this pest, particularly anyone who lives or works in the Fitchburg area.

Adult spotted lanternflies are large, gray bugs about one inch long with black spots and red underwings. A nymph is a younger, wingless insect that is red with black and white markings.

This bug can be found congregating on sides of buildings in or on vehicles, or on plants that they prefer to prey on.

Anyone who suspects they’ve found a spotted lanternfly should take a photo or collect the specimen and report the sighting using the MDAR’s online reporting form.

So, we can add this small, foreign arthropod to the sweltering heat as reasons to say good riddance to summer.

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