New Jersey

New Jersey Officials Urge Residents to Kill Invasive Spotted Lantern Flies

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They may look impressive and the adults are even pretty to look at — but wherever you are, if you see one, New Jersey wants you to destroy any spotted lanternflies you see.

That's because the insect is an invasive species native to China that can wipe out agricultural crops and several kinds of trees, according to the state's Department of Agriculture. And the problem with them is only getting worse.

In New Brunswick on Friday, dead spotted lanternflies could be seen in bunches scattered up and down the sidewalks. A Middlesex County official told NBC New York that they brag to one another about how many they kill during their lunch hour.

From nymph to adulthood, the bugs target fruit — especially grapes — as their food source.

"They eat so much that they take out the potential food reserves the vine needs over the winter, and it dies over the winter," said Rutgers entomologist Dean Polk. "Spring comes, and you have dead vines."

Polk said that makes the pest from southeast Asia, first seen in New Jersey two years ago, a high priority for the state's Department of Agriculture. It can also be a pest with homeowners as well, as the insects will feed on plants and trees in lawns, though not necessarily fatally.

The spotted lanternflies have been seen all over he state except in Cape May County. In eight mostly southern counties, the infestation is so bad that they've been placed in a form of quarantine.

But the sugary liquid they excrete, called honey dew, ca quickly trigger a fungus wherever it land — which can hurt business if it lands on produce.

"If you have a grey, moldy piece of fruit that pretty ugly, that obviously affects the marketability," Polk said.

The good news: There is no complicated way of getting rid of them. Officials said the best way to deal with the insects is to just swat them wherever they are seen, killing them.

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