Did you ‘spot’ that bug? Now smash it. Marylanders encouraged to watch out for spotted invasive species

A close-up of spotted lanternfly, black spotted nymph stage on a grapevine in Berks County, Pennsylvania. The Department of Agriculture said Marylanders should keep an eye out for these invasive creatures. (Getty Images/ThinkStock)

If a certain spotted little black bug is seen in the backyard, the Maryland Department of Agriculture is asking residents to snap a picture, report it, then smash it.

The first spotted lanternfly hatch of 2020 has been reported in Maryland, and the department is working to control the spread of the bug quickly.

The bug was first “spotted” this season by a department employee while surveying for the pest in the upper northeast corner of Cecil County, Maryland, near the Pennsylvania border.

“Our department continues to work closely with our federal and state partners to survey and prepare for the emergence of this invasive pest in our state,” Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder said in a news release.

“As spotted lanternfly nymphs start to hatch, I encourage all Marylanders to keep a lookout for this insect that has the potential to devastate many of our farmers’ crops,” he said.

The department said the spotted lanternfly poses a major threat to the region’s agricultural industries, as it feeds on more than 70 types of plants and crops, including grapes, hops, apples, peaches, oak and pine.

The spotted lanternfly has confirmed populations in states neighboring Maryland, including Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia and New Jersey, the release said.

In Maryland, spotted lanternfly hatching is expected to last through mid-July.

The Department of Agriculture said Marylanders should keep an eye out for the spotted lanternfly, which, in its current life stage, appears as a tiny, white-spotted angular black nymph about a quarter-inch in size.

Following the department’s 2019 survey season, Maryland was found to have established populations of spotted lanternflies in Cecil and Harford counties.

In fall of last year, the department’s Plant Protection and Weed Management Program partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to treat Ailanthus altissima, the spotted lanternfly’s preferred host, at multiple sites in Cecil and Harford counties.

This treatment will start again in late May or early June.

A quarantine zone has been in effect for Cecil and Harford counties since October 2019 in an effort to control the spread of this invasive insect to other parts of the state.

Those who think they located a lanternfly or one of their egg masses are encouraged to take a picture of it, send it to DontBug.MD@maryland.gov with the location in which it was found, and then smash it.

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