(NEXSTAR/WGN) — Depending on where you live, you may have come face to face (literally, they have flown into people’s faces) with the spotted lanternfly. The invasive species has been detected in more than a dozen states.
Add Illinois to the growing list.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture has confirmed the first detection of spotted lanternfly (Lycorma deliculata) in Illinois.
But do residents need to be concerned?
The short answer, as you may have guessed, is yes. But, you can’t exactly prepare for the lanternfly’s arrival either.
The spotted lanternfly is native to China and was first reported in the U.S. in 2014. A Pennsylvania forester noticed the bug, pictured below, found one in the southeastern portion of his state. The bug has since spread to at least 14 other states, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture: Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia and Illinois.
Dead lanternflies were found in Michigan as early as 2018 but its first live infestation was confirmed in August 2022, as was Rhode Island’s. An infestation was confirmed in North Carolina a month early. Experts in the state said that, based on its size, the insects could have been there for a couple of years before being reported.
The spotted lanternfly does not present any human or animal health concerns, according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
“If there is a silver lining associated with spotted lantern fly in Illinois, it is that we have no reason to believe that widespread plant or tree death will result from its presence,” said Scott Schirmer, Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Nursery and Northern Field Office Section Manager. “This is likely going to be a nuisance pest that interferes with our ability to enjoy outdoor spaces and may have some impact on the agritourism industry, including orchards, pumpkin patches, and vineyards.”
Even if your state hasn’t yet seen a spotted lanternfly, the USDA considers most at risk for infiltration. Excluded are nearly a dozen states: Alaska, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
At best, the spotted lanternfly can only travel about a mile on its own, and that’s if it gets some help from the wind. Otherwise, it depends on its hitchhiking ability to move around, taking road trips on vehicles, trailers, outdoor equipment, or even hiking humans. While there is no guaranteed way to keep the bug from spreading into new states and regions, but keeping it from finding a ride in the first place can help.
That’s why states already facing infestation, like Pennsylvania, have taken steps to limit the bug’s travel options. The Commonwealth requires certain companies to obtain an SLF Permit it they transport regulated items within or out of areas quarantined for the bug. Companies located within areas with spotted lanternfly populations are also required to get a permit to bring regulated articles into Pennsylvania.
The invasive plant hooper was first found in the U.S. in southeastern Pennsylvania in 2014.
During fall, the spotted lanternflies are in their adult phases and are searching for areas to lay their mud-like egg masses. It’s not uncommon to find those egg masses on trees or man-made surfaces like grills, vehicles, outdoor machinery, or any other outdoor area.
If you find a spotted lanternfly or an egg mass in an area where the bug has already been detected, like Pennsylvania or New York, you should destroy them. Stomping or otherwise squishing the adult bug will do, while the egg masses take a bit more work. You’ll need to crush the masses even and watch for it to burst open — that’s how you know it’s been done properly. PennState Extension recommends scraping the egg mass into a bag or container of hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol, and then disposing of the bag or container.
If you find either the bug or its eggs in an area where it hasn’t yet been detected, you should at least take a photo of it first, noting where you found it. Then, if you’re able to, catch it in a container. PennState recommends trying to collect it in a container of hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol to kill and preserve it.
Traps can also be set to catch and kill the invasive bug.
If allowed to spread, the spotted lanternfly “could seriously impact the country’s grape, orchard, and logging industries.” However, researchers have found a promising sign — the spotted lanternfly may not be as damaging to some hardwood trees as originally thought. Pennsylvania State University researchers recently released results of a study showing that while the spotted lanternfly will feast on native trees like the silver maple and weeping willow, reducing growth, the trees are able to recover over time.
What can you do to help?
- Report sightings – If you see SLF or suspect it, report it to firstname.lastname@example.org. A fact sheet, including photos, is available through the University of Illinois Extension.
- Remove and destroy pests – crush nymphs and adults, scrape egg masses into a container with hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol to kill them. Remember to take photos first, and report this!
- Check your vehicles, boat, camper, outdoor articles, etc. – Before leaving an area, do a quick inspection for any life stages. Destroy any eggs or insects found.
- Keep your eyes open and spread the word (not the pest) – We need the public’s help to look for and report this pest, and to also strengthen the outreach about it. It will likely impact everyone in Illinois one way or another, so the more awareness we have the better.
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