Bug off! Pennsylvania receiving $1.5M million from feds to fight spotted lanternfly


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is giving Pennsylvania an additional $1.5 million to fight spotted lanternflies through the Plant Protection Act.

“The spotted lanternfly is still considered an agricultural emergency,” said Shannon Powers, press secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

The flies have flown the coop to nine states, killing acres of grapes along the way.

“The lanternflies feed on the grapevines and then that leaves them vulnerable to winter temperatures,” said Emelie Swackhamer, horticulture educator, PennState Extension.

Meanwhile, the fight against the flies is heating up. Experts said the USDA’s grant will fund continued research such as studying Asian birds and fungi that already kill the flies.

“I’m hopeful that, you know, maybe, somewhere along the road these natural factors might help us stabilize the populations, and that’s kind of a long-term goal,” Swackhamer said.

In the short term, it’s critical to report fly egg masses to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

“You’re not gonna hear back right away, but it does go into a database, and every report, a team follows up on,” Powers said.

But don’t wait for the team to destroy the egg masses. Powers said you can use any tool to destroy the eggs, which hold between 30 to 50 flies.

“Especially if your kids are driving you crazy in the house, send them out to hunt lantern flies, egg masses in your yard,” Powers said.

While this may be the latest emergency, experts said it won’t be the last.

“As we learn from the situation that is unfolding with spotted lanternfly, and we have resources to better address these issues, it will help us with the other times, too,” Swackhamer said.

The funds will support projects covering a range of plant health and pest mitigation activities, including outreach and education, detection and suppression and plant conservation.

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