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Virginia Tech expert expects spotted lanternflies to spread to more counties this year

Crystal Graham
spotted lanternfly
The spotted lanternfly will emerge from from its egg stage in mid- to late April to feed on a wide range of fruit, ornamental and woody trees, and vines. Photo by Theresa Dellinger for Virginia Tech.

A Virginia Tech entomologist says Virginians should be on the lookout for spotted lanternfly nymphs which generally hatch in mid- to late April.

“The spotted lanternfly is well-established up and down the East Coast and in Virginia,” said Eric Day, who manages the Insect Identification Lab in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Entomology on the Blacksburg campus. “It’s really a perfect invasive storm. We are moving from detecting and reporting it to managing it and reaching out to those who are potentially impacted.”

Their ever-expanding range includes the Shenandoah Valley and parts of the Piedmont, Day said.

Twelve Virginia counties and 10 cities are currently under quarantines, which means vehicles moving goods across city and county lines must be inspected by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for the lanternfly and its eggs.

Day expects spotted lanternflies to spread to more counties this year. Some areas of Virginia that were initially infested have reported fewer sightings.

“Winchester saw lower numbers last year,” he said. “Eventually, native predators start to find them delicious. Also, the spotted lanternfly gets a fungal disease that takes them out. It’s possible that some natural enemies are helping to cull them.”

The spotted lanternfly threatens crops including grapes, peaches and hops along with about 70 tree species, including pines, walnuts, maples and oaks. Its preferred host is another invasive species called the tree of heaven, Day said.

For homeowners, Day recommends checking your property for egg masses and destroying them. If you see nymphs or adults, kill them on sight.

Outdoor items such as grills, fencing, kids’ playhouses and patio furniture can be easy locations for egg masses to hide.

For more information on the spotted lanternfly, click here.

spotted lanternfly Virginia
Images courtesy Virginia Cooperative Extension

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.