The Spotted Lanternfly Has Invaded Illinois, Squash ’em

The Department of Agriculture (DOA) has confirmed that a local sighting of the invasive spotted lanternfly was reported on Sept. 16, marking yet another state it’s migrated to since the colorful insect was first sighted in the U.S. nearly a decade ago. The Department of Agriculture did not disclose the lanternfly’s location, but said when staffers visited the area they found a “moderately populated area of spotted lanternfly.”

The DOA collected a specimen of the bug two days after the report to confirm the infestation was the Lycorma deliculata, otherwise known as the spotted lanternfly, and received the positive result on Tuesday. In a press release, the DOA described the lanternfly as a “nuisance pest” but said it “does not present human or animal health concerns.”

“If there is a silver lining associated with spotted lantern fly in Illinois, it is that we have no reason to believe that widespread plant or tree death will result from its presence,” said Scott Schirmer, Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Nursery and Northern Field Office Section Manager in the press release. “This is likely going to be a nuisance pest that interferes with our ability to enjoy outdoor spaces and may have some impact on the agritourism industry, including orchards, pumpkin patches, and vineyards,” he added.

The invasive insect is native to China and was first detected in the U.S. in Pennsylvania in September 2014 and has since been growing in population throughout the East Coast. The spotted lanternfly has now been identified in 13 other states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia.

There has been widespread concern over how the lanternfly will affect local agriculture such as in New York where experts warned that the pest is feeding on 70 plant species including grapes that are used for the state’s wine industry. Residents in New York and elsewhere have been advised to kill the lanternfly by any means possible, and although some areas of the country have seen a higher-than-average lanternfly population this year, Brian Eshenaur, an entomologist at Cornell University told The New York Times that it is typical of this insect moving to a new location.

“The first couple of years, the populations build up,” Eshenaur told the outlet, “and then around year three they level off, and then often there is a drop in the population in future years.”

Although the Illinois DOA doesn’t believe that the spotted lanternflies pose any major concerns, its research and regulatory communities are continuing to observe the lanternfly to “better understand its movement and behavior,” Dr. Michael Woods, Division Manager of Natural Resources said in the press release.

Jerry Costello II, Illinois Department of Agriculture Director said in the release that the spotted lanternfly has been moving toward Illinois since it was first observed in Pennsylvania and has had “a multi-agency team working to prepare for this scenario.” He added that efforts include “readiness, informing and educating the industry and the public, as well as monitoring early detection.”

The Illinois Department of Agriculture is encouraging anyone who sees the spotted lanternfly to send an email with a photo of the insect to [email protected].

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