'Step on them and smash them': What to know about invasion of spotted lanternfly

The beautiful insects are hugely destructive to a wide variety of plants.

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Friday, August 5, 2022
What to know about invasion of spotted lanternfly
Spotted lanternflies, which are hugely destructive to a wide variety of plants, have been spotted in at least 11 states.

They're back.

Spotted lanternflies are once again wreaking havoc on fruit crops, trees and even lawn furniture in states across the U.S.

The pests -- which are native to Asia and known for their pale, pinkish gray wings, black dots and scarlet undercoat -- were first documented in Pennsylvania in 2014.

Despite their beauty, the insects are hugely destructive to more than 70 varieties of plants, and experts say when you see one -- have no mercy.

"When you see them, stomp them. There's no other way to put it. They hop, but they don't fly," said Douglas Fisher, the New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture. "It's easy to step on them and smash them, and that's what people are doing."

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Spotted lanternflies begin as egg masses attached to trees in the springtime. Experts say you can use a credit card to scrape away those sacks before they hatch.

They often hitch a ride on cars, which can lead to their spread in the summer as people move around to places like the beach.

They don't pose a direct threat to humans or pets, but a vigilante-like group in Pennsylvania known as the Spotted Lanternfly Patrol is out to help find and squash them anyway.

"We know it's an invasive insect. It has very few predators in this area. We should get out there and try to eradicate it or bring that population way down so that we don't have some sort of mass fallout event with our habitat," said Ruffian Tittmann with the nonprofit Friends of the Wissahickon.

The Spotted Lanternfly Patrol says the bugs are easy to identify, and a fly swatter can be the great equalizer in this battle.

Officials recommend people report spotted lanternfly sightings to their local government after killing the insect.

ABC News contributed to this report.