Experts warn the Spotted Lanternfly is growing and becoming more destructive

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- An invasive species of insect is starting to cause more trouble.

The Spotted Lanternfly is morphing, and it's becoming more destructive, according to officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

Right now, the so called "bad bugs" are described by agriculture officials as red with black spots.

They're in their 'teenage' years of life. Some people might even think the insects are pretty, but officials warn the vibrant creatures continue to be a threat to Pennsylvania agriculture.

What's invasive, hops from plant to plant, and can quite literally suck the life out of vines? The answer is the Spotted Lanternfly - which officials warn is only getting more destructive as the days pass.

"They're a threat to about $18 billion worth of popular commodities in the state - like our grape crops which are very popular and our economy depends on very heavily," explained Shannon Powers, press secretary for the Pa. Dept. of Agriculture.

The bug morphs: from tiny black wingless creatures into nymphs which are over a half inch long before becoming an adult. According to the Dept. of Agriculture, "adults can be seen as early as the middle of July and take on a much different appearance.  Adults at rest have a black head and grayish wings with black spots.  The tips of the wings are a combination of black rectangular blocks with grey outlines."

The department shared what the insect looks like in its current stage on Facebook; people shared the post more than 13,000 times

"The hype is about a really destructive insect we don't want to spread," explained Powers. "I think it's because people who have encountered these insects understand just how destructive they are to their businesses and just how they are if you want to enjoy outdoors."

14 counties are currently listed as "under quarantine", according to the department's website. Dauphin County was added to the list earlier this year, and specialists with the USDA surveyed part of York County to see how many of the insects may have infested an area in June.

"There are a number of people looking into how the insects behave, how we can control them, trying to predict their behavior, and finding ways to get rid of them without harming the rest of the environment," added Powers.

Powers says part of that involves figuring out how to make a product -an insecticide of sorts that could kill the pesky bug without hurting people or the environment.

The budget just passed and the Pennsylvania Farm Bill devoted $3 million to combatting the insect in Pennsylvania.

The insect will continue to grow into the fall and become even more destructive.

There are a number of ways for people and businesses to fight an infestation, according to the Pa. Dept. of Agriculture: "This insect is easily moved if no one is looking.  If you are in the quarantine area, please “Look Before You Leave.” Inspecting your vehicles, trailers, or any outdoor items before you move around or out of the quarantine is important.  If possible, don’t park in tree lines and keep windows rolled up when you park your vehicle.  Know the life stages of the insect and when to look for them.

Using the recommendations developed by Penn State Extension take control measures on your own property. Any efforts you make in destroying the Spotted Lanternfly or it’s egg masses helps your property and community.

Report sightings of the Spotted Lanternfly. All reports of SLF outside of the quarantine are taken seriously and will be investigated.  Reports within the quarantine are registered in a database for USDA and PDA.  The database is used to help determine properties for treatment.  Treatment is based on location, risk, and available funds."

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