Entomologists with the state Department of Agriculture are asking the public to keep an eye out for the spotted lanternfly — a destructive pest native to parts of China, India and Vietnam — after a possible sighting in Central Washington earlier this month.
The agency received a photo of what looks like a spotted lanternfly from someone in the Omak area of Okanogan County. The observe also reported seeing as many as five live specimens. Department officials couldn’t find any of the bugs during a search of the area, but did notice the area could be inhabitable.
“Our search revealed abundant great number material in the area,” Sven Spichiger, an entomologist with the department, said in a blog post. “For the next several weeks, we ask people to look for both adults and egg masses. If they think they found any suspected life stage of the pest, they should report it.”
Spotted lanternflies chiefly attack grapes, but have been sighted on other crops such as hops, apples and peaches. The first U.S. sighting was in Pennsylvania in 2014. Since then, they have popped up in several East Coast states and other areas throughout the country.
The Washington Invasive Species Council says the pests could do serious damage to the state’s agriculture industry if they take root here. In the blog post, Justin Bush, the council’s executive coordinator, said reporting a spotted lanternfly — should you see one — is integral in preventing that.
“This is another example of the important role everyone plays in stopping invasive species,” he said. “You may be reporting a new invasive species and help prevent millions, if not billions, of dollars in damage and loss.”
Department spokesperson Karla Salp said that, for the time being, the agency’s advice to the public is to capture and report a spotted lanternfly if you see one. The department needs to confirm that they’re truly in Washington before issuing a kill order, she said.
The spotted lanternfly has an incredibly distinctive look. Adults have a black head and gray-brown forewings adorned with black spots. When resting, their crimson hind wings are slightly visible by the semi-translucent forewings, giving the lanternfly a red turn up. Salp said they’re about the size of a moth.
Reports can be made using the Washington Invasive Species Council’s online reporting form. You can also email the state Department of Agriculture at [email protected] or call 1-800-443-6684.
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