The Spotted Lanternfly Pest Hitchhikes Rides with Truckers

The Spotted Lanternfly is an invasive species in the U.S. that can cause a lot of damage. Truckers working in and out of these affected areas are learning how to deal with these pests.

The Spotted Lanternfly is an invasive species that is common in southeast and eastern Asian counties. First spotted in the United States in 2014, these pests have wreaked havoc on important industries, some of which include agriculture and logging. These bugs have made their way into Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Maryland and their presence is even affecting truck drivers. Read further to see how.

What to Know:

One major problem with the invasive species is the fact that they have little to no competition here. In the areas that are native to the flies, natural predators help keep their population in check. The adult Lanternfly can lay between 30 and 50 eggs in one mass and they can be tricky to spot. Experts are not certain how these pests made it into the country. They estimate that it is likely that they hitched a ride on a cargo shipment. Not strong flyers, these bugs prefer to cling onto moving objects to get around, thus explaining why they are often referred to as hitchhiker bugs.

Why are They Pests?

The Spotted Lanternfly uses a sucking mouth-part to drink from plants. While they feed, they excrete an incredibly sticky sugar-substance that gets on the plant and encourages black mold growth. They feed on over 70 different species of plants and can cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.

What They Look Like:

These pests mimic the look of leaves on a branch. Their egg sacs are light brown and resemble a crusty patch of mud on the side of a tree’s trunk. Once hatched, the lanternfly begins its lifecycle without wings. The bug is all black with white spots. As it becomes an adult, the fly develops grey-brown translucent wings with black spots, black bodies, yellow underbellies, and red and black hind-wings.

The Spotted Lanternfly and Truckers:

Truck drivers working in or out of the affected areas are being utilized by experts in order to slow the spread of the invasive species across state boarders. Drivers around these states have been asked to look for the flies during their daily pre-trip inspections. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is offering free, 2-hour training courses to truckers and issuing them permits that show that they have been properly trained. Other advice for truck drivers is to avoid parking under trees if possible and to leave windows up in these areas. Any commercial truck found to have unwanted pests on board may be temporarily quarantined.

“Look before You Leave”

Experts are urging people in these areas where they have been spotted to inspect themselves and their vehicles before leaving. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture advises people to report where they see the Spotted Lanternfly and then to “squash it, smash it…just get rid of it.” If you see their egg masses on trees or other flat surfaces, scrape them off onto the ground.  After that, smash any of the eggs so that they don’t have the opportunity to hatch and lay their own. Report sightings to the Bad Bug Hotline at 1-866-253-7189.


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