Task force formed to combat spotted lanternfly in Berks

The push to exterminate the invasive spotted lanternfly is gaining momentum, with the Pennsylvania secretary of agriculture announcing plans to establish a community task force to help eliminate the pests.

"So, we are concerned about agriculture commodities in the livelihood of our farmers. We like our rural landscapes and we want to keep the farmers profitable," said Emelie Swackhammer, a Penn State Extension horticulture educator.

Since the bug's first appearance in the United States in Berks County in 2014, the lanternfly population has grown.

"Spotted lanternfly is really a community problem at this point, found in a wide area and has moved a little further," said Swackhamer.

In October, Berks County state Sen. Judy Schwank suggested a task force be formed. By November 29, Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding sent a letter saying he'd done just that, and experts said they are happy it didn't take much time, because the invasive species needs to be eliminated now.

"This year, the spotted lanternfly population exploded," Swackhamer said.

The state needs to be ready by spring 2018. Farmers fear if the lanternflies aren't controlled, many of them will be out of business.

The new community task force will be made up of 15 people representing, industry, farming, government, trucking and homeowners. The people selected will provide input to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to point out gaps in the response strategy.

"All the eyes and ears of the people in the community will help identify where the high infestation areas are and where there are areas that could benefit from the control measures being implemented," Swackhamer said.

For those not on the task force, you can fight back, too. Officials said eliminating one female takes out a potential 100 flies.

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