Change from municipal to county-level quarantines intended to protect at-risk areas; Residents urged to ‘Look Before You Leave’ to avoid spreading destructive pests
Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced today that it has expanded the areas quarantined due to Spotted Lanternfly, but unlike past quarantine expansions, is now applying the designation at the county level in order to provide an additional level of protection. Previously, quarantines were imposed only at the municipal level.
Prior to today’s expansion, the quarantine covered municipalities in Berks, Bucks, Chester, Lehigh, Montgomery, and Northampton counties. As part of a strategic effort to contain the insect’s spread, the department expanded the quarantine countywide in those six counties, and today added Carbon, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Monroe, Philadelphia, and Schuylkill counties. The quarantine now includes areas where the insect is not yet confirmed, but where there is a high risk of its rapid spread beyond the region.
“Eradicating the Spotted Lanternfly is important not only for our citizens, but for our economy, as well,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “This invasive insect threatens to destroy $18 billion worth of agricultural commodities here like apples, grapes and hardwoods, inflicting a devastating impact on the livelihoods of our producers and businesses. It’s also undermining the quality of life for Pennsylvanians who are coping with hoards found in many infested areas”
With the expanded quarantine zone, seasonal changes, and the insect’s life-cycle, the department has shifted its control strategies, enlisting additional support from local, state, and federal agencies and universities. During summer months, control efforts focused on eliminating insects and Ailanthus trees, or the Tree of Heaven, where the Spotted Lanternflies prefer to breed and feed. Work crews continue to concentrate on areas that pose the greatest risk for transporting insects, such as railway beds, interstates, and other transportation corridors where the Ailanthus tree grows.
Last month, Redding addressed a joint hearing about the pest of the Senate and House Agriculture and Rural Affairs committees. He also wrote U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to request additional federal support. The department received $2.9 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture this year to control the insect and $25,000 for outreach efforts. USDA has also contributed personnel at no expense to the state. The state Agriculture department has requested $10 to $12 million in additional federal support to address the expanding problem. The department also spearheaded a multi-agency response plan with the state departments of Transportation and Conservation and Natural Resources.
“Three years into this infestation, we’ve been successful at keeping the Spotted Lanternfly solely a ‘Pennsylvania problem’ thanks to our cooperative federal and state containment efforts,” said Redding, “but it is becoming apparent that we must bring more resources to bear if we want to eradicate this pest. It’s also going to take the cooperation and support of the public.”
The state is asking the public and those traveling through quarantined counties to:
- Scrape egg masses from trees or other surfaces, double bag them, and throw them in the garbage, or place the eggs in alcohol or hand sanitizer to kill them. Egg masses, which are laid in the fall, are initially waxy-looking, grey-brown blobs, and later look like dried mud. Each egg mass contains 35-50 young Spotted Lanternflies.
- Check vehicles for egg masses before leaving an infested area.
- Buy firewood locally. Do not take it with you when you leave.
- Check lawn furniture, wood products, construction materials, tarps, lawnmowers, trailers and other items stored outdoors before bringing them in for the winter, covering them or moving them.
- Do not transport brush, yard waste, remodeling or construction waste outside quarantined areas.
Anyone who finds the insects or egg masses outside quarantined areas should report sightings to email@example.com. Include photos, if possible, to help confirm the sighting. Suspect specimens can be submitted to the department’s headquarters in Harrisburg or to any of its six regional offices. Specimens also can be submitted to county Penn State Extension offices. Do not submit live specimens. You may also call the Invasive Species Report Line at 1-866-253-7189. Please provide details, including the location of the sighting, and your contact information. Calls may not be returned immediately, as call volume is high.
Businesses that move goods can also play a role. Companies in quarantined areas must obtain a Phytosanitary Certificate or compliance agreement from the department to move articles outside the area. Those moving materials within a quarantined county need a permit to help ensure egg masses or insects are not spread beyond already-infested areas. Businesses should contact a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture regional office to ensure that they are complying with quarantine restrictions and not spreading insects or eggs.
“We’ve overcome invasive pests in the past, and I know we can do it again, but that’s going to take an all-hands-on-deck approach,” Redding said. “For the sake of our agriculture and export industries, it’s something we must do. The more this pest spreads through Pennsylvania, the more susceptible we are to trade restrictions. That is something we simply cannot afford.”
The Spotted Lanternfly is an inch-long black, red and white spotted insect native to southeast Asia. An invasive species in South Korea, it has attacked 25 plant species there that also grow in Pennsylvania. It spread throughout that country, which is roughly the size of Pennsylvania, within three years. The pest had not been seen in the United States prior to the fall of 2014, when it was found in Berks County.