Region encouraged to spot, squash signs of spotted lanternfly

Feb. 27—SOMERSET, Pa. — Somerset County has joined neighboring Cambria and 49 other counties within Pennsylvania's spotted lanternfly quarantine zone.

And state officials are urging the region to spot and destroy its eggs ahead of their spring hatch.

Signs of spotted lanternflies have been found in a "few municipalities" around Somerset, Fayette and Clearfield counties, the Department of Agriculture reported.

The invasive pest is disruptive and damaging. They feed on leaves, young shoots, tree branches and trunks and can quickly cause damage to orchards, grape vines and maple trees.

"We're telling people to scrape them, squash them and report it," Cambria County Conservation Manager John Dryzal said in an interview Monday.

The Department of Agriculture has a tipline, 1-888-4BADFLY, to enable state officials to track areas where the fly is found.

Over the past several years, Department of Agriculture officials have worked to spread awareness about the flying insect and take efforts to slow its spread.

"Through collective and intentional efforts, including instituting quarantine zones, we continue to slow the spread of this insect, and I call on all Pennsylvanians to assist," Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said.

Each mass destroyed eliminates as many as 50 lanternflies before they hatch, Redding said.

The bugs often hitchhike from area to area — latching onto passenger vehicles or rail freight cars to move further west.

Dryzal said they've seen signs of the bugs along the rail corridor that travels through Cambria's Mainline communities, but they haven't been widespread so far.

"A big concern is for fruit and grape growers, because the (spotted lanternfly) can really do some damage," he said.

The state has invested more than $50 million to battle the bug and $150,000 is available this year for county conservation districts for activities designed to bolster lanternfly quarantine efforts.

Dryzal said Cambria County has already conducted some outreach in 2021 and 2022, including educating area farms.

"Thanks to an actively engaged community, and aggressive treatment and monitoring by the Department of Agriculture and our partners, we are limiting the spread and impact of this pest across the commonwealth and are assisting our commodity growers in protecting their crops," said Ruth Welliver, Department of Agriculture bureau of plant industry director.