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State officials: If you spot this fly, kill it.

A damaging invasive species is about to hatch in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania.

The Spotted Lanternfly is spreading and if seen, the bug should be squished.

“They're a beautiful insect. But the damage that they do the economy and to our way of life ... outweighs the need to protect their little lives," said Shannon Powers, state Department of Agriculture Press Secretary.

The state is asking residents to kill the bugs, starting with their egg masses. Powers said the masses can be on anything and look like a smear of light brown putty or dried gum. They can hold 30 to 60 insects.

After hatching, the flies are in a nymph phase. They’re black with white spots. By adulthood, the larger insects have black-spotted dull brown translucent top wings covering black and red bottom wings, also with black spots.

They pose a huge threat to the state's agriculture, especially the beer and wine industries, said Powers. The bugs aren’t great at flying. They hover and can only move forward. Spotted Lanternflies mostly suck the sap out of trees and woody vines, especially fruit vines. But it’s not the eating that causes the biggest problems. It’s their excrement.

“It's sticky and it coats leaves and fruit and it blocks photosynthesis and it can just destroy vines and fruit," Powers said.

The invasive insect from Southeast Asia was first spotted in Berks County in 2014. Forty-five of PA’s 67 counties are on the quarantine list. Lycoming, Union and Snyder counties were among the 11 added this year. Mostly every county in Northeast Pennsylvania is on the list, except for a few, like Susquehanna and Wyoming, in the Northern Tier.

Pennsylvania is working with the United States Department of Agriculture to treat high traffic areas for the bugs including tourist attractions, trucking ports and along highways and the surrounding areas, said Powers. Spotted Lanternflies are hitchhikers and will attach themselves to car to grab a ride to a new location.

The state relies on residents to report Spotted Lanternfly sightings.
"So we know where they are," said Powers. "We can treat or remove them as possible before they become an infestation.”

To report a Spotted Lanternfly sighting, visit the state Department of Agriculture or the Penn State Extension website or call 1-888-4BADFLY.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.