Spotted lanternflies found in more Pennsylvania counties. Here's what you need to know

Brian Whipkey
Pennsylvania Outdoors Columnist

The invasive spotted lanternfly has expanded its territory in western Pennsylvania.

As of Feb. 24, they are now in 51 of the 67 counties in the commonwealth. This now includes Butler, Clearfield, Clinton, Fayette, Lawrence and Somerset counties, which have been added to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s quarantine list for 2023.

Lantern flies, an invasive species pictured in two different stages of life, are now found in 51 counties across Pennsylvania.

Spotted lanternflies have not been found throughout the entirety of each of the new six counties, but rather have been found only in a few municipalities.

"Spotted lanternfly is an invasive pest that is disruptive and damaging to our agriculture commodities and a nuisance pest for all Pennsylvanians," Russel Redding, agriculture secretary, said in a news release. "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."

At this time of the year, before the lanternflies' eggs hatch in the spring, the way to manage the population is to look for egg masses to remove them and report where they are found. Each egg mass destroyed eliminates 30 to 50 lanternflies before they hatch, Redding said.

First found in 2014 in Berks County, their territory has expanded west every year since.  The ag department reports the insects feed on sap from a variety of plants but have a strong preference for plants important to the state’s economy including grapevines, maples, black walnut, birch and willow.

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This map show where lanternflies have been found across Pennsylvania. The public is urged to kill any of the invasive insects and egg masses they find.

They can negatively impact the health of fruit trees and the timber industry. A 2019 economic impact study estimated that, uncontrolled, this insect could cost the state $324 million annually and more than 2,800 jobs.

To avoid having the insect move to new areas, residents and businesses in quarantined counties are asked to take precautions:

  • Try to kill lanternflies and their egg masses that appear on trees, outdoor buildings, vehicles, and other items such as backpacks, tarps and recreational vehicles.
  • Destroy a spotted lanternfly immediately that is at any life stage. Step on them with shoes as one option.
  • For egg masses, crush all eggs evenly.
  • Alternatively, all life stages of spotted lanternfly can be placed in a container with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer to destroy them. 
  • Businesses that operate in or travel through quarantined counties are required to obtain a spotted lanternfly permit that acknowledges the driver of the vehicle knows how to spot and remove lanternflies from a vehicle.
  • Pennsylvanians who live inside the quarantine zone are asked to review and sign the Compliance Checklist for residents form on the department’s website agriculture.pa.gov.

There is funding to help counties slow the spread of spotted lanternflies. Through the PA Farm Bill's Rapid Response and Disaster Preparedness Fund, $150,000 will be available for grants for county conservation districts in Pennsylvania. The department will award grants of up to $25,000 to assist conservation districts with activities designed to enhance quarantine compliance by businesses and residents of their counties. The application period opens on March 5 and closes at 5 p.m. April 7. 

To report a sighting of spotted lanternfly, visit https://extension.psu.edu/have-you-seen-a-spotted-lanternfly

Brian Whipkey is the outdoors columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him atbwhipkey@gannett.com and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter email on this website's homepage under your login name. Follow him on Facebook@whipkeyoutdoors ,Twitter@whipkeyoutdoors and Instagram atwhipkeyoutdoors.