The spotted lanternfly has become an increasingly popular topic of conversation in South Jersey each summer – for all the wrong reasons.
The invasive insect from China, believed to have made it to the U.S. via a cargo container to Pennsylvania about four years ago, has continued to grow its presence across various states besides New Jersey.
Prior public announcements about sightings of the spotted lanternfly are, unfortunately, no longer needed, as the insect has made “quarantine counties” out of Burlington, Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Salam, Somerset, Union and Warren.
The state now has one simple message about the pest: Stomp it out.
“This insect has the potential to greatly impact agricultural crops and hardwood trees,” reads a state Department of Agriculture post on its website. “[The spotted lanternfly] feeds on the plant sap of many different plants, including grapevines, maples, black walnut, and other important plants in New Jersey.
“While it does not harm humans or animals,” the post added, “it can reduce the quality of life for people living in heavily infested areas.”
The Rutgers Cooperative of Burlington County will host a program on the spotted lanternfly Thursday, Sept. 29, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the amphitheater of the Burlington County Library System’s main branch, 5 Pioneer Blvd. in Westampton.
The pest goes through five stages of growth after hatching its eggs, and in the first three stages, from May to July, it typically is black with bright white spots. The bug’s fourth- stage appearance is more reddish, with black legs and white spots.
When reaching adulthood, the spotted lanternfly appears gray-winged, with dark black spots and a bright red underwing. It then travels for approximately two to three months, from August to November, before preparing to lay eggs for the winter.
South Jersey residents are advised to stomp put the spotted lanternfly on sight, because of its destructive effect on the local environment.
“[The spotted lanternfly] is a serious invasive pest with a healthy appetite for our plants, and it can be a signiﬁcant nuisance, affecting the quality of life and enjoyment of the outdoors,” according to the agriculture department post.
“The spotted lanternfly uses its piercing, sucking mouth part to feed on sap from over 70 different plant species,” it added. “It has a strong preference for economically important plants and the feeding damage signiﬁcantly stresses the plants, which can lead to decreased health and potentially death.”
For more information on the upcoming lanternfly program, contact Rutgers Master Gardener Program of Burlington County Coordinator Mike Johnson at mj685@email@example.com.