MILLER TOWNSHIP, PERRY COUNTY, Pa. - A bug native to Southeast Asia made its way to Pennsylvania in 2014. This past weekend its first egg hatch of the season was spotted in Berks County. Agriculture officials are now warning of its potential $18 billion impact on the state's businesses, trade and economy.
"This isn't something that's going to go away in two or three months," said. Kevin Shea, USDA animal and plant health inspection service administrator. "This is going to take some time."
Right now, 13 Pennsylvania counties are under spotted lanternfly quarantine, including Lancaster and Lebanon Counties. The quarantine means things like brush, firewood, logs, nursery stock, and outdoor furniture are not allowed to be moved to a new area, in fear of spreading the lanternfly across the state.
"The spotted lanternfly, among other things, sucks the sap from stems and that, of course, zaps the life out of them," said Shea. "But it does worse than that. It leaves behind a sticky residue and a mold."
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Agriculture and Penn University have teamed up to create a coalition to bring awareness to this pest, study it and get rid of it. In an effort to combat the spotter lanternfly, the USDA will contribute 17.5 million dollars, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf proposing nearly $1.6 million in the 2018-19 budget.
"The goal remains to contain and minimize the spotted lanternfly while also keeping the commerce flowing in Pennsylvania," said Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding. "It will require human resources like we have never seen."
A Perry County business that could be severely impacted by the spotted lanternfly is the Riverbend Hop Farm and Brewery. Hop is used to make beer, and is one of the plants spotted lanternflies love.
"If we get a pest like the spotted lanternfly to come in here and destroy it halfway through the season, we not only lose our hop crop but i've lost a lot of money," said Denny Browne, Riverbend Hop Farm and Brewery owner. "Of course we wouldn't generate the business we need to generate and keep the employees that we keep."
Browne says he's happy to see the state try to tackle the pest head on. He'll continue to keep a close eye on his crops as he does for any pest, but the spotted lanternfly in particular is scary.
"The government hasn't come up with any way to deal with them at the moment so that's the scariest part," said Browne. "If they show up what exactly are we going to do about it, other than report it."
For more information on the spotted lanternfly or what to do if you find it, click here.