Agricultural experts warn of spotted lanternflies

Published: May. 22, 2023 at 11:48 PM EDT|Updated: May. 23, 2023 at 12:00 AM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - It’s almost summertime, which means more time outside soaking up the sun. Unfortunately, it also means an abundance of lanternflies.

“This is an insect that people love to hate,” said Kelly Oten, NC State Assistant Forest Health Professor.

Agricultural experts like Oten said the invasive species are hatching at a high rate. That means the black-bodied specimens with white spots, will soon become swarms of vibrant red adult nymphs.

“Just don’t want the headache that they’re going to bring with them,” Oten said. “These insects get in huge swarms and can be very annoying.”

Experts say females of the invasive species lay dark gray egg masses. The eggs can be hard to single out due to their ability to blend in with things like tree bark and rocks. Shortly after, infestations begin forming.

ECU Biology Teaching Assistant Professor Mirian Watts said that’s usually because the insects are feeding on sap from a nearby woody plant.

“They produce dew that’s very sweet, can attract ants and wasps,” Watts said. “That’s not a danger, but you don’t want to have them around.”

Once spotted lanternflies fully hatch, experts say nymphs become a serious threat to crops like grapevines, which could hurt wineries.

“Not only can they kill grapevine, but if they don’t kill it, huge reduction in crops,” Oten said.

Even though they don’t sting or bite, Oten said people’s phobia of spotted lanternflies has grown over the years.

Experts encourage people to remove any egg masses they find and to report any sighting of the insects to the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.