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Home gardeners prepare: the invasive spotted lanternflies are returning

 Spotted lanternfly.
Emma Lee
Spotted lanternfly.

Home gardeners looking to harvest fresh cucumbers or strawberries should keep an eye out for the newly hatched spotted lanternflies.

These invasive insects became a subject of fascination over the summer with state and local governments encouraging residents to squish the bugs. As of February, the state Department of Agriculture added six new counties to its quarantine list, bringing the total to 51 of 67 counties in the commonwealth.

Kelli Hoover, a professor of entomology at Pennsylvania State University, told WESA’s the Confluence that she’s heard reports of the first eggs in Pennsylvania hatching in the Philadelphia area. Hoover said the unseasonably warmer temperatures contributed to these early hatches in different parts of the country.

“North Carolina, which now has a population [of spotted lanternflies] as well, had their first hatch early in April,” she explained.

When these insects hatch, they are known as nymphs and are much smaller than an adult spotted lanternfly. The nymphs are black with white spots, and — according to Hoover — they can jump far. The recognizable red spotted lanternflies probably won’t be seen until about July.

Home gardeners should look out for nymphs feeding on their cucumber and strawberry plants, Hoover cautioned. Farmers who grow grapes or fruit trees may also need to keep an eye out for these invasive pests.

Penn State advises homeowners to identify and eliminate the eggs before they can hatch. One common place you’ll find eggs is near trees such as red maples, silver maples and willows. The egg masses are covered with a gray-brown substance and lay flat on tree bark.

The state Department of Agriculture is asking people to report online or by phone at 1-888-4BADFLY if they see a spotted lanternfly.

Marylee Williams