“Destroy Them Wherever You Find Them”: Spotted lanternfly population stretching across Maryland.

By STETSON MILLER

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HARFORD COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — An invasive insect is now invading trees across Maryland and threatening vineyards across the state.

“It aggressively attacks vines in Cecil, Harford and Washington counties,” said Kenton Sumpter, an entomologist with the Maryland Department of Agriculture and member of its Spotted Lanternfly team.

The spotted lantern originates from China. It first appeared in the United States in Pennsylvania, then spread to Maryland in 2018, and the population is currently exploding in Harford and Cecil counties. It has also been found in Baltimore City and Allegany, Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, Queen Anne’s, Wicomico, and Washington counties. Infestations have been confirmed in 12 states.

Why is this a problem? Dappled Lanterns suck sap from trees and plants, draining them of energy, and they have the potential to devastate vineyards, orchards, and nurseries.

“This year we actually received reports from growers blaming the spotted lanternfly for reducing the yield of their crops,” Sumpter said.

Mottled Lantern also releases a sugary substance called honeydew which attracts a fungus that can damage plants.

Sumpter said the insect won’t kill the plants, but his department fears they could reduce yields of grapes and possibly apples, peaches and pears.

“It attacks a number of different host species, but the one that really worries us is the grapevine,” he said.

The state’s Spotted Lanternfly team tracks and traps insects and will spray for them. But they need the help of everyone in Maryland to try to stop the insects from damaging the agricultural industry and spreading to other states.

“The first thing we want people to do is crush them. Destroy them wherever you find them. They look pretty, but you have to get rid of them,” Sumpter said.

The Mottled Lantern will not sting, bite or transmit disease.

“If the people of Maryland can participate in management assistance, slowing the spread, we can weather the storm,” Sumpter said.

You can report sightings of the Mottled Lantern by visiting this website. Sightings in Harford and Cecil counties no longer need to be reported.

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