Spot the noticed, flying insect

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Invasive spotted lantern fly found in Billerica

Mary Leach
| Wicked Local

With warmer weather on the horizon for the next few days, state agricultural officials are calling on Billerica residents to look out for the spotted lantern fly (Lycorma delicatula, “SLF”), an invasive, sap-eating insect from Asia that has been photographed in the city Late summer.

“Billerica is one of the places someone has photographed a live lantern fly in August,” said Jennifer Forman Orth, Ph.D., an environmental biologist with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR). “We measured trees but couldn’t find any signs of actual infestation. We don’t have much time before another hard frost sets in and insect activity subsides, making it even more difficult to spot spotted lantern flies by measuring. So we’re trying to to inform the public in case there are further sightings that were not reported. “

According to a press release from MDAR, the agency was informed in early fall that nursery stocks of spotted lantern fly egg masses and adults may have been inadvertently imported and planted in several parts of Massachusetts. They urge anyone who has received goods or materials such as plants, landscaping materials, or patio furniture from a state with a known spotted lantern fly infestation to carefully inspect the materials, including any packaging, for signs of spotted lantern flies.

These states include Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The insect was first found in the United States in Pennsylvania in 2014.

Joseph Sanecchiaro, who discovered the bug in Billerica, said he originally took the photo because he had never seen an insect like this.

“I wanted to show my 8-year-old son Leo, who loves beetles. I showed it to him the same day and he found it very interesting as he had never seen one before and he collects and researches all kinds of insects, “he said.” A few weeks later my wife and I saw the evening news, you noticed that the insect that was shown on the show to report to the authorities looked exactly like the one I showed Leo. “

Sanecchiaro sent the photos and received confirmation that the insect was indeed a spotted lantern fly.

The residents should look for large, gray insects that are about an inch long with black spots and red underwings, or for inch-long, rectangular yellowish-brown egg masses that are covered with a layer of gray wax.

Egg masses can be found on any flat surface.

While the main host plant of this pest is the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), the spotted lantern fly infects a wide variety of trees, shrubs, and grapevines, and can be used in a wide range of agricultural commodities such as apples, peaches, grapes / vines, maple syrup, and ornamental gardening.

If evidence of a spotted lantern fly is found, residents should take a photo or collect the sample and report possible sightings of the pest using the MDAR’s online reporting form.