Federal, state officials meet to fight spotted lanternfly

'This is a crisis, and we have to address it'

BERN TWP., Pa. - Federal, state, and local officials gathered at the Berks County Agriculture Center in Bern Township on Tuesday to raise awareness about a rapidly expanding bug problem.

Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach said he believes the problem with the spotted lanternfly is bigger than people realize.

"This has been an issue for Berks County since 2014," he said.

According to Leinbach, this has been a breakout year for the spotted lanternfly.

"Subsequent years, we have seen an increase in the quarantine area, but nothing like the expansion this year," he said.

Leinbach described one incident at a winery where the bugs attacked grapes.

"They would treat and kill hundreds of thousands, and within days, hundreds of thousands were back," Leinbach said.

They're poised to do billions of dollars in damage to certain trees, fruits and other products in Pennsylvania.

"This is a crisis, and we have to address it," said Leinbach.

Residents of Lower Alsace Township are literally seeing signs of the spotted lanternfly. A sign was placed near a popular park to inform residents of the pest and what to watch out for.

"I wouldn't have known what they were until I saw that sign," said Betty Quillman, who was out walking her dog Tuesday. "It's a bit scary, you know, that they're so damaging to our foliage."

Quillman has been using bug spray.

"Well, wasp spray did take them out," she said.

Others are doing their part, too, but it's getting overwhelming.

"I know you are supposed to kill them, but I would have been there all day trying to kill that many," said Cary McDaniel of Mt. Penn.

Meanwhile, USDA officials are involved because they're concerned about the bug hitching rides out of the state.

"Places like Oregon and Washington, where the huge apple industries are," said John Crow, national policy manager for the United States Department of Agriculture.

Officials are utilizing a variety of techniques, including chemicals.

"You apply the pesticides to that trap tree to try to control the insect," explained Crow.

Dana Rhodes, a state plant regulatory official, said more public awareness is key, as well as setting everyone's sights on one goal.

"Having everyone committed to the eradication of this pest," she said.

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