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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The bug battle is on! They’re called Spotted Lanternflies and they’re an invasive species threatening part of Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry and the environment.
“There was like a tremendous amount of them, a tremendous amount,” said Nora Piontek.
Piontek noticed Spotted Lanternflies in her Pottstown, Montgomery County backyard a year ago, but the bugs began to do damage on her yard this summer, eating her trees and more.
“They even swarm right on the food,” said Piontek.
Swarms of the bugs are now threatening many people’s yards, Pennsylvania’s grape industry and dozens of parks. Right now, officials say the bugs are chewing their way through Fairmount Park in Philly.
“They’re thought to be able to kill trees when their populations become high enough,” said Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Operations Manager Tom Witmer.
Officials believe Spotted Lanternflies arrived to Pennsylvania from Asia, likely on a boat through the port of Philadelphia around 2012.
When you think about all the cargo that arrives here at the port, authorities admit it’s almost impossible to keep out all invasive plants and animals. And right now, there’s not much that can kill the bug in the U.S.
“They have no predators here,’ said Greg Cowper with the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University.
Cowper says Spotted Lanternflies have been spotted in 13 counties in Pennsylvania, mostly in Berks, Lehigh and Montgomery Counties. The advice he has is that if you see egg casings on trees in your yard, which look like a glob of mud or putty, go out and try to kill them.
“You can literally just scrape them off,” said Cowper. “They make a credit card size thing that you can use to peel them off. Heck, if you’re at home just use a butter knife, a putty knife, some implement around the house, and just scrape them off. If there are just a few, scrape them into a baggy of Isopropyl alcohol and that kills them immediately.”
He also says you can just squish the casings.