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Small Spotted Lanternfly could mean big problems if population grows

Invasive bug species seen in Cleveland area
Spotted Lanternfly
Posted at 6:00 AM, Sep 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-14 08:00:46-04

CLEVELAND — An invasive fly could cause big problems in Northeast Ohio if its population is allowed to grow, and the state Department of Agriculture is asking for help from Ohioans to stop the fly.

The Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) is small, about 1.5 inches, but it targets a big industry in the area.

"It could affect a lot of things ...especially your spirits of wine and beer," said David Adkins with the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Adkins is an expert in pests like this invasive fly.

The department's website about the fly states that"SLF is not a strong flier and is actually a planthopper. Despite this, SLF can spread long distances quickly by people who move infested materials or those containing egg masses."

"It's at our doorsteps, literally," said Andrew Pratt with the Holden Arboretum.

The fly was first spotted (no pun intended) near Philadelphia in 2014.

"It's been spreading west as the crow flies since then," Pratt said.

The small fly is so detrimental because of how it invades fruiting plants and wooded trees.

"Black sooty mold around the base of plants or oozing sap may indicate the presence of the Spotted Lanternfly," the department's website said. "SLF can feed on more than 70 plant species, and has the potential to greatly impact the viticulture, tree fruit, nursery, and timber industries."

Pratt and Adkins want help from residents because the economic losses can add up to the hundreds of millions.

A study from Penn State University showed more than $300 million in damages to several industries in the state if the fly wasn't controlled.

Because the flies don't use their wings for long-distance trips, they have been known to hitch a ride on cars, semi-trailers, and trains.

Adkins said travelers should "check your vehicle before you come home." He wants people to make sure they aren't bringing the bug back from East Coast states.

Adkins said the flies are easy to spot if people are looking for their spots. The adult wings are spotted on the outside and have smaller red wings.

The department received two reports of the SLF on the east side of Cleveland. News 5 found two near the train tracks between Euclid and Carnegie around E. 55th Street. Adkins said a crew is prepared to eradicate those SLF soon.

Along with fruiting and hardwood trees, the SLF also finds a home in another invasive, non-native species, the Tree of Heaven.

"Sometimes out in the field, there is confusion between our native Sumac and this plant," Pratt said. But, if the tree is found, "Cut it down. Positively ID it to make sure it's not our native Sumac then remove the plant."

If you see a Spotted Lanternfly, call the Ohio Department of Agriculture at 614-728-6400.

RELATED: The invasive spotted lanternfly, seen recently in Cuyahoga Co., could give us a lot to wine about