OHIO COUNTY, W.Va. (WTRF)
The Spotted Lanternfly gives new meaning to the term invasive pest.
It was just discovered in 2014 and it has done a tremendous amount of damage already.
Ohio County Extension Agent Karen Cox says it feeds on 70 different plant species, killing trees and wreaking havoc in orchards, vineyards and the timber industry.
They have been officially confirmed as near as Beaver County, Pa., and Jefferson County, Ohio, but experts say it’s an “excellent hitchhiker.”
Cox says the spotted lanternfly settles in a truck’s wheel well and can hang on at top highway speeds, quickly spreading from one area to another.
As an egg mass, they look like a “splotch of mud on a tree,” Cox notes, but then changes in appearance several times in its life cycle.
It becomes black with white spots, then red with white spots and finally reddish brown with tiny black spots.
The Department of Agriculture advises people to squash any adult spotted lanternflies that you see, and to scrap egg masses into a container of rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer.
She says they don’t hurt humans but can become a tremendously inconvenient pest in large numbers.
One woman from West Virginia’s eastern panhandle said a swarm seemed to “follow” her into the house propelled by wind.
“They are much more bothersome than 17-year cicadas, actually,” Cox noted.
Anyone who wants instructions on how to build a spotted lantern fly trap can call their local county extension office.
In Ohio County, the phone number is (304) 234-3673.