CECIL COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — An invasive species that could affect crops and gardens in Maryland were spotted this summer– and that’s why the federal government is working with the state to spray for the pests.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture is spraying to kill spotted lanternflies at multiple sites in the northeast corner of Cecil County and along the northern border of Harford County.
Officials found a small population of spotted lanternflies in these areas while surveying for pests this summer.
“Even before the first spotted lanternfly was confirmed in Maryland last October, the department and our partners had been vigorously surveying and educating the public about this pest,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder. “Due to its potentially devastating effects on the agriculture industry, treating for this invasive insect now is critical to controlling its spread in Maryland and protecting our state’s agricultural commodities.”
The USDA will work to treat Ailanthus altissima, more commonly known as tree-of-heaven, within a quarter-mile radius of where the insects were seen. Spotted lanternflies prefer to feed on this tree and also the tree helps them with reproduction.
“We’re working with Maryland Department of Agriculture to contain, control, and suppress the isolated spotted lanternfly infestations in Cecil and Harford Counties,” said USDA’s State Plant Health Director Matthew Travis. “Detecting the pest early, while the population is small, is critical to stopping its spread. That’s why we’re asking the public for help. If you see spotted lanternfly or find egg masses, call MDA or an Extension office.”
All property owners in the treatment area have been or will be, directly notified prior to spraying. Both the herbicide and the insecticide have been found to have no or very minimal health effects on humans and pets.
Treatments should be completed by the end of September.
So why are these bugs such a threat?
The department of agriculture said it feeds on 70 different types of plants and crops — including grapes, hops, apples, peaches, oak, pine, and many others.
They are originally from Asia and were first detected in Berks County, Pennsylvania.
As a known hitchhiker, the spotted lanternfly has spread to 14 counties within Pennsylvania and has confirmed populations in Delaware, Virginia, and New Jersey, officials said.
The good news — WJZ called several vineyards in Harford and Cecil counties and they reported their crops have not yet been affected. Milburn Orchards, a popular destination for fall apple-picking in Cecil County, also said their crops hadn’t been affected.
There is no spotted lanternfly quarantine for businesses or homeowners in Maryland at this time.
If you suspect you have found a spotted lanternfly, snap a picture of it, collect it, put it in a plastic bag, freeze it, and report it to the Maryland Department of Agriculture at DontBug.MD@maryland.gov. Dead samples from any life stage can be sent to the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Plant Protection and Weed Management Program at 50 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Annapolis, MD 21401.