Agriculture officials work to eradicate invasive pest in midstate

Written by Rachel McDevitt | Aug 7, 2018 5:36 PM

Photo by Courtesty Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

(Harrisburg) -- The state and federal agriculture departments are working to eliminate an invasive pest in the midstate.

The Spotted Lanternfly poses a threat to the nearly $18 billion fruit and timber industries in the commonwealth.

It was first discovered in Berks County four years ago, and has since spread to 13 counties, including Lancaster, Lebanon, and Schuylkill.

The one-inch-long insect native to southeast Asia has a black and yellow body with spotted grey and red wings.

State Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said now is a critical time to assist the affected counties.

"It will determine our success, certainly, in the state with what we do, but it'll also determine what happens in the United States," Redding said. 

Three million dollars in state funds and $17.5 million in federal funding are slated to go towards education and research.

The state will conduct a $1.9 million survey to make sure the insect isn't spreading.  

Redding said his agency is working to suppress Spotted Lanternfly populations in a core infestation area while the USDA is trying to enforce a perimeter 18 miles outside that area.

Penn State is leading public education efforts, so people can recognize the pest and avoid spreading it to new areas.

Redding noted everyone in the affected counties has a role to play.

"Bottom line, is to make sure you look before you leave the area. The spotted lanternfly, as we have learned, is an excellent hitch hiker. We do not want it traveling with us," he said. 

Redding said it's the time of year when the lanternfly reaches its adult stage, so it's at its most visible and destructive.

Anyone outside the confirmed counties who spots the insect should report it online. 

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