They’re coming: Loudoun Co. warns of invasive spotted lanternfly

The invasive spotted lanternfly will likely be found in Loudoun County in the next year, according to agriculture experts.

WASHINGTON — An invasive insect that feeds on more than 70 plants will likely soon be found on Loudoun County grape and hops vines and fruit trees.

And once it arrives, the results can be devastating, according to experts.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services detected the spotted lanternfly earlier this year in Winchester, in nearby Frederick County.

Beth Sastre, a horticulturist with the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Loudoun Office, said it’s only a matter of time.

“I don’t think we can prevent it,” Sastre said. “We’re likely 12 months away from the first spotted lanternfly showing up.”

The spotted lanternfly came from China, Sastre said, and was first identified in the United States in 2014, in Pennsylvania.

“It’s a plant-hopper. It sucks the sap of the plant. It prefers grapes, tree fruits, hops, and many ornamentals,” she said. “It’s a hitchhiker, and as you know, many people travel from Winchester to Loudoun County.”

When the spotted lanternfly is feeding on a plant, it secretes honeydew — a sugar-rich, sticky liquid that attracts other insects. The liquid is smelly, coats and damages the plant, and can cover the ground below. The honeydew is then colonized by fungi, which give it a black appearance, like a sooty mold.

The lanternfly will not sting or bite humans.

In addition to the fruit trees and vines, it also feeds on the Tree of Heaven plant, “which is distributed everywhere,” said Sastre.

County officials say early detection is important to managing the spotted lanternfly, and they offer the following suggestions:

  • Learn to identify spotted lanternfly in its different life stages.
  • Look for spotted lanternfly egg masses from now to early spring by checking tree trunks, wheel wells, lawn furniture, storage sheds, rocks and other smooth surfaces.
  • Destroy the egg masses by scraping them from tree bark or any other surface and putting them in a container, such as a bag, filled with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. The egg masses can also be smashed.
  • Learn to identify Tree of Heaven from other look-alike trees and remove female trees from your yard.
  • Share information about the pest with family, friends and others in your network.
  • Report sightings of spotted lanternflies and their egg masses to the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Loudoun Office.

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