Spotted lanternfly sightings increase throughout Pittsburgh region

PITTSBURGH — The spotted lanternfly, or SLF, has made its way to Western Pennsylvania.

In fact, there are more SLFs than can be counted on the North Shore. A tree only feet away from Acrisure Stadium is covered with them.

When they spread their wings, you can see they are red, white and black with spots. Bill Walker of South Fayette said he has never been aware of the insect.

“I now see it,” he said. “Never heard of them.”

The SLF is an invasive insect native to Asia and first discovered in Pennsylvania in Berks County in 2014.

“The spotted lanternfly is a plant-hopper insect,” said Valerie Sesler of Penn State Extension, which tracks the SLF.

Sesler is area master gardener coordinator for 12 southwest counties.

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“They hop more than they fly, although they can fly,” she said, “but they normally hop around and they’re quick.

“And they seem to be coming mostly along the railways,” Sesler continued. “That’s where the biggest concentration of spotted lanternflies are.”

The SLF is destructive.

It uses its piercing-sucking mouthpart to feed on sap from dozens of plant species, including grapevines, maple trees, black walnut, birch and willow.

The insect then excretes honeydew, a sticky substance that causes mold, according to Sesler.

“They feed on over 70 plants and species in Pennsylvania and it causes the plant to be stressed,” she said. “That can lead to other diseases moving in and eventually caused the plant to die.”

Sesler said the pest has been reported in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Indiana, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

They are among the 34 counties in Pennsylvania under a state-imposed quarantine to stop the movement of SLF to new areas.

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“We encourage people to kill them when they can,” Sesler said. “A lot of people will take a hose and knock them out of the tree or off the plants and squish them.”

She added that killing the egg masses is important. Those are on trees right now.

Pesticides are not recommended. Sesler added that residents should be diligent when traveling, to check their cars to make sure the bugs are not going along for the ride.

Nate Newton and his band from Massachusetts, performing at Stage AE, plan on doing just that.

“This is good information,” he said. “We can do that. That’s our driver.”

To report a spotted lanternfly, contact the Penn State Extension hotline at 1-888-422-3359 or go to https://extension.psu.edu/have-you-seen-a-spotted-lanternfly

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