BALTIMORE, Md. (WJZ) — With red, white, and black spots, don’t let its good looks fool you. The spotted lanternfly is bad news.
According to Aaron Shurtleff with the Maryland Department of Agriculture “It’s capable of causing a good amount of damage.”
Just about anything you can find at a Farmers Market is on the menu, a total of 70 crops, including hardwood trees.
Its egg mass, which looks like dried mud, came on stones shipped from China to Pennsylvania. Insect experts like Mary Kay Malinowski with the University of Maryland’s Agricultural Extension office were warning about it last February.
“As of last fall, they were within ten miles of the border,” said Malinowski.
Now the first lanternfly has been found in Maryland in a trap set in Cecil County.
“It was definitely good news we only found a single one and because it was male, we know it’s not laying eggs,” said Shurtleff. “So we’re pretty confident we don’t have a population established in Maryland at this point.”
But it’s a real possibility because as a nymph or an adult, spotted lanternflies have no natural predators in Maryland.
While they’re a threat to crops, they are also a nuisance.
“As they feed, they take in a lot of sugar. More than they can consume, so they tend to excrete it back out,” said Shurtleff. “So it’s all just kind of raining down. There are places in Pennsylvania where they have to power wash off their stairs every day to keep them clear.”
Besides creating a sticky mess, lanternflies also have other ways of making their presence felt.
“If you’re out walking around where they are and have a dark shirt or hat, they’ll be attracted to you,” said Malinowski. “Like, land on you. I’ve heard they get into people’s hair. They’re just a mess.”
And when females do make it to Maryland and lay eggs, there’s likely no getting rid of them.