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Westchester County intensifies efforts to combat spotted lanternflies

The invasive insects, known for causing damage and posing a significant nuisance, have infested the county, prompting urgent measures to control their spread.

News 12 Staff

Aug 2, 2023, 9:45 AM

Updated 325 days ago

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The battle against spotted lanternflies has escalated as Westchester County is taking decisive action against these troublesome pests.
The invasive insects, known for causing damage and posing a significant nuisance, have infested the county, prompting urgent measures to control their spread.
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The Westchester County Department of Parks, Recreation, and Conservation is spearheading the efforts to eradicate the spotted lanternflies. County officials have highlighted the threat posed by these sap-sucking pests, which originate from Asia and can wreak havoc on parks and wooded areas by feeding on a wide variety of plants, including grapevines, hops, maples, walnuts, fruit trees, and other vegetation.
The distinguishing characteristics of spotted lanternflies include black or red-spotted wings during their juvenile stage and more moth-like appearance with white wings as adults.
The spotted lanternflies, though harmless to people as they do not bite or sting, are adept hitchhikers and can be found landing on individuals and vehicles, contributing to their spread.
These bugs are commonly spotted on the Tree of Heaven, abundant in parks throughout the region. The tree serves as a familiar food source for them due to their Asian origin, as noted by conservation supervisor Taro Ietaka.
The insect has a particular liking for fruit, especially grapes, raising concerns for New York state's vineyards and fruit trees. With each lanternfly capable of laying up to 50 eggs, the pest is likely to remain a persistent challenge.
To combat the infestation, the Westchester Parks Department is exploring the use of non-toxic sprays, along with employing high-powered commercial vacuums to effectively remove large quantities of the invasive insects.
It also will have trained dogs from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference's Conservation Dogs. The dogs will be deployed to sniff out the eggs before they hatch.
Various methods, such as power washers, wet vacs, and vacuum cleaners, are suggested for individuals to employ if they encounter the bugs at their homes. However, caution is advised, as the spotted lanternflies are known for their agility and may evade attempts to eliminate them by stomping.
"It's probably going to get worse for another couple of years, and what we're trying to do is just knock down the numbers as much as we can," says Ietaka.
Citizens can help combat the spread by addressing the eggs, which resemble splotches of mud or cement and are typically visible between October and March. If found adhering to trees, houses or vehicles, simply scraping them off can help.
"Insecticidal soaps if you wanted to spray them, if you've got a vacuum cleaner that's got some high power, you can suck them up, a power washer, you spray them, they'll break apart,” advises Ietaka.
Taking prompt action against this invasive species is crucial to protect the county's natural habitats and ensure the well-being of the local ecosystem. Residents are encouraged to report any sightings of spotted lanternflies and cooperate in the initiatives to curb their spread effectively.
“The spotted lanternfly has become a nuisance – and a potential threat – in Westchester County,” said Westchester County Executive George Latimer in prepared remarks. “The steps and suggestions recommended by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation should be taken seriously and I urge the community to come together to help reduce this invasive.”
For more information on spotted lanternflies, visit the Westchester County Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Check out the photos below from viewers who found lanternflies in the tri-state area. And scroll down to send us your photos:
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