Officials are calling the Lancaster County Central Park, “ground zero.” It’s where a lot of work and research is being done to help eradicate the insect, and now they want to expand their work to other counties.
The blue markers on trees at the Park signify a Tree of Heaven. But the name is misleading. It’s a host for the Spotted Lanternfly, the invasive insect that feeds on more than 70 plants and agricultural crops.
“We were going to begin our own grassroots effort to treat a small area of the park where we thought it existed,” Paul Weiss, administrator of the Lancaster County Department of Parks & Recreation, said. “And then John from the USDA came to me and said, we’ve got a loftier goal. We’d like to treat the entire park,’ and I said ‘that’s great. How are we going to do that’?”
Through a cooperative agreement, where the USDA comes in and marks, sprays, and treats parts of the park that could be a risk for Spotted Lanternflies. They said they’re hoping it sets an example for this kind of work to happen at parks in other counties.
The PA Farm Bill, which is still pending with the state budget, is a package of legislation designed to expand and protect agriculture infrastructure. Of its $5 million dollars, $3 million will go toward containing a disease outbreak or invasive insect threat.
“If you look around here, at these beautiful trees. One must wonder if an invasive pest like the Spotted Lanternfly would take hold of this area,” USDA APHIS Deputy Administrator Osama El-Lissy, said.
Anything marked blue in the park will be treated with herbicide by the USDA.
“This is a pest that doesn’t discriminate,” Sec. Russell Redding of the PA Department of Agriculture, said. “Doesn’t care about zip code, doesn’t care whether you’re republican or democrat, doesn’t care where you are. It’s in this area so we need to take this cooperative approach to fighting it.”
As of may 1st a permit is required for truckers in Spotted Lanternfly quarantine areas. They are free, but a two hour test is required so drivers know what to do if they see any.