Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Spotted, Smashed: Harrisburg City forester offers tips for dealing with spotted lanternflies

Spotted lanternfly

There’s a relatively new winged resident in town. If you see him, squash him.

The spotted lanternfly has made its way to Harrisburg, but according to city Forester Ellen Roane, the invasive insect is not a welcomed guest.

You’ll recognize the fly by its gray, black, red and yellow body and wings, covered in black spots.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA), the flies cause major damage including oozing sap, wilting, leaf curling and dieback in trees, vines, crops and many other types of plants. They also excrete a substance, called honeydew, that can lead to the growth of black sooty mold that is harmless to people, but damaging to plants, the PDA said.

Additionally, they pose possibly a multi-million-dollar threat to the agriculture industry, according to the PDA.

In Harrisburg, Roane said that the flies haven’t been terrible this year, but she expects to see even more next year.

However, across the city, they’ve definitely been visible.

Walk down N. 3rd Street, and you’ll see dead and living flies scattered on the sidewalk near the federal building. Stroll through Reservoir Park, and you may find some munching on leaves. Jog along the riverfront, and one might whiz by your face.

Roane said that the flies gravitate towards young trees, which they can damage more significantly than mature plants. They especially like to feed on the leaves of tree of heaven, silver maple, red maple and walnut trees, among others.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the flies are native to China and were first detected in Pennsylvania in 2014.

To protect Harrisburg trees from the flies, the Department of Parks, Recreation and Facilities is giving out free circle traps to residents. These traps are used to funnel the insects into a bag for capture, Roane explained.

There are other methods of dealing with flies, such as stepping on or swatting them, spraying them with mild insecticide or creating a trap with screening material. Trees can also be treated with a systemic insecticide that kills the insects when they feed on the tree, Roane said.

As winter rolls around, Roane advised residents to be on the lookout for the lanternfly eggs, which, she said, will likely appear in November and hatch in April. They appear as small, gray, putty-like masses, about an inch wide and can contain around 40 to 60 eggs, Roane said.

To prevent them from hatching, she suggests scraping them off the surface they’re found on and putting them in a bag of alcohol.

There are 34 counties in the commonwealth that are under spotted lanternfly quarantine, meaning the bug should not be transported out of the county. Dauphin County is under quarantine.

The bottom line? Roane says, if you see a spotted lanternfly, smash it.

Spotted lanternfly traps can be picked it up at 123 Walnut St., Suite 317, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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