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Spotted lanternfly spreading in Ohio: What you should do about it

Several spotted lanternflies on a tree
Lance Cheung
USDA Office of Communications

An invasive insect that's been found on the East Coast and can threaten agriculture has been detected in Ohio, prompting experts to ask residents to keep an eye out for it.

The spotted lanternfly is an invasive insect from Asia. It was first seen in 2014 in Pennsylvania. It’s since been detected throughout the East Coast and is moving west.

An adult spotted lanternfly has light brown forewings with black spots and a yellow and black body. Its hind wings are red with black spots.

The insect likes to feed on the tree of heaven, which is another invasive species. It also likes grape vines, cucumber plants, hops, roses, ornamental trees and other plants, which concerns some agricultural experts.

It doesn’t pose a threat to humans. But it can damage and stress fruit trees or grapes, and become a nuisance in backyards because its secretions attract ants and other pests.

Ashley Leach, an entomologist with Ohio State University, spoke Tuesday at the Farm Science Review convention. The insect is still in its active colonization phase in Ohio, she said, and researchers are collecting data about it. But people shouldn't be too concerned.

“You go to Google and you type spotted lanternfly, and it's a lot of doom and gloom. And the reality is that’s not what’s happening. We don’t see all that doom and gloom,” She said. “A lot of people that have suffered losses in the past know and have management options.”

Leach added small farms or gardens might be at an advantage since there’s more diverse plants and it's less likely the insect might encounter a plant it likes to feed on.

To prevent the bug from spreading, experts urge Ohioans to learn how to identify it.

“Check out those ID pictures, educate yourself so that if you're hanging out in your backyard and you go, that bug looks off, then we can start to monitor our response to that,” Leach said.

State officials suggest killing it or putting it in a jar and reporting it to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Support for WYSO's reporting on food and food insecurity in the Miami Valley comes from the CareSource Foundation.

Copyright 2022 WYSO. To see more, visit WYSO.

Alejandro Figueroa