HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania has started spraying insecticide on spotted lanternflies, a new strategy that state officials are using in an attempt to slow the spread of the invasive pest. Crews using backpack sprayers and truck-mounted spray equipment are spraying the bugs along railways, interstates and other transportation rights-of-way, the state Department of Agriculture said Friday.
Lanternflies primarily spread by hitching rides on vehicles traveling out of infested areas, officials said. The active ingredient of the insecticide, bifenthrin, is highly toxic to fish and bees. The Agriculture Department said the insecticide will not be used near water or flowering plants and it will conduct regular environmental sampling to monitor impacts.
“Spotted Lanternflies threaten our quality of life outdoors and destroy valuable products that feed our economy,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said in a statement Friday. “We are working diligently and strategically to control this pest in ways that are safe for the people, pollinators, plants and animals that share the environment it threatens.”
Spraying is underway in southeastern and south-central PA, where more of the insects have hatched, and will be scheduled in other areas of the state as the season progresses. Native to Asia, the colorful planthopper sucks sap from valuable trees and vines, weakening them. It produces a clear, sticky, sugary waste. Besieged residents have been killing them by the thousands. Thirty-four of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties are now under quarantine, requiring businesses that move products, vehicles and other items in and out of the quarantine zone to obtain a permit.