Officials Calling on Individuals to Help Stop Dangerous Insect

Officials Calling on Individuals to Help Stop Dangerous Insect

( – One doesn’t normally hear about an all-points bulletin on an insect. But, that’s exactly what happened after a Kansas student’s state fair display earned him a blue ribbon and triggered a federal investigation.

An unnamed 4-H member correctly identified and displayed a spotted lanternfly for his science project in early September. Unknown to him, the invasive insect recently prompted quarantines in dozens of counties scattered throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. One of the fair judges knew about spotted lanternflies and reported it to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection division of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

USDA investigators will try to determine how a lanternfly made the roughly 1,100-mile journey to Kansas from northeastern quarantined locations. However, the harmful insect has a reputation for traveling long distances. Spotted lanternflies originated in China and experts believe they hitched a ride to the United States on a shipping crate.

Lanternflies ravage crops by depositing a sugary substance called honeydew, which encourages black mold growth, causing plants to die. They also feed on more than 70 varieties of plants and trees.

Spotted lanternflies quickly reproduce, laying egg masses with as many as 50 eggs each. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture website advises citizens to kill any of these insects they come across. “Kill it… smash it… just get rid of it,” the website stated. It also asks people to report sightings of the bug.

On the plus side, spotted lanternflies pose no health risk to humans or pets.

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