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Environment

No N.H. Populations Yet Of Invasive Lanternfly, But State Officials Say Keep An Eye Out

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Caitlyn Johnstone/Chesapeake Bay Program
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Flickr/Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/
A spotted lanternfly is seen on a log in Pennsylvania in 2018.

Mid-Atlantic state officials are urging residents to help eradicate the invasive spotted lanternfly before it devastates fruit crops. The pest has so far been prevented from spreading in New Hampshire, but state officials say it will likely return.

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Native to Asia, the spotted lanternfly is about an inch long with black-spotted grey wings and red underwings. It weakens trees and plants, especially soft fruit crops like grapes and hops, by sucking out their sap. The flies leave behind sticky-sweet feces called honeydew that attracts other insects and can cause black sooty mold to grow.

The fly is spreading quickly in mid-Atlantic states like New York, where officials are telling people to kill any lanternflies they see. But workers have so far kept the flies from establishing a New Hampshire population, said state entomologist Piera Siegert.

She said her office and a nursery “intercepted” a group of adult lanternflies on plants imported from Pennsylvania last fall, and killed them before they could spread. Similar steps were taken in past isolated incidents with imported lanternfly egg masses.

She noted that the bugs’ favorite host plant, the tree of heaven, is also considered invasive in the U.S. and is found in New Hampshire, though less so than in the Mid-Atlantic. It grows in Manchester, Nashua and other “disturbed habitat” areas, such as along highways and rail corridors.

Siegert said there have been efforts to remove the trees in places like Concord. The state’s lanternfly webpage says more removal efforts “may reduce the likelihood of economically significant spotted lanternfly populations from building in the state.”

According to Siegert, it’s unclear whether the flies could survive New Hampshire's cold winters long-term. She said it would take at least a year for them to spread enough to do economic damage.

Still, she said residents and growers shouldn’t take chances: The lanternfly is likely to show up in New Hampshire periodically in the future since it often lays eggs on cars or plant products that allow it to hitch rides from state to state.

Siegert said this means New Hampshire residents should look out for the bugs and their waxy egg masses, and be sure to send any sightings or specimens to the state.

“If working in or visiting an area with spotted lanternfly, be diligent about not bringing it back with you,” the state site says. “This pest is a notorious hitchhiker…. Don’t park beneath trees when in an area with spotted lanternfly and check your vehicle before you leave.”

Other New England states are also on the lookout for the spread of the lanternfly after isolated detections in the past few years.