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Infestation of invasive spotted lanternfly found in Springfield

State officials are urging the public to be on the lookout for the sap-feeding insect.

Matt Rourke / AP, File

An infestation of the invasive spotted lanternfly has been found in Springfield, prompting state officials to urge the public to lookout for, and report, any sightings of the sap-feeding insect.

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources announced Tuesday that the invasive insect was found last week in Springfield. State officials are still determining the extent of the infestation and have so far been unable to determine how the insects — which are known to be in other East Coast states including Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania — ended up in Springfield.

“Cities like Springfield with large industrial areas are at especially high risk for spotted lanternfly introductions, since this pest can hitchhike on trucks and other methods of transportation that come from infested states,” the state said in a statement. “Urban and industrial areas often harbor large populations of the spotted lanternfly’s preferred host plant, tree-of-heaven.”

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The spotted lanternfly was first spotted in the United States in Pennsylvania in September 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The insect, native to China, feeds on the sap of a range of ornamental, woody, and fruit trees, posing a risk of impacting the nation’s grape, orchard, and logging industries if it is allowed to spread. They lay eggs on “almost any surface,” including cars, trailers, and patio furniture, which officials said allows them to be spread across long distances when people travel with infested materials.

A single dead spotted lanternfly was first found in Massachusetts in 2018. Since then, the insects have been found both alive and dead in the state.

Springfield is the third city where an infestation of the insect has been found; the spotted lanternfly has also been found in Fitchburg and Shrewsbury.

“With new populations of the spotted lanternfly likely to pop up more and more frequently as the invasive pest becomes established across the northeast, it is critical that we all remain diligent in identifying them early on,” Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux said in a statement. “Anyone who sees this pest is asked to report it promptly. Early detection will help limit the spread of spotted lanternfly and give orchards, farms, and other growers time to prepare.”

In Massachusetts, officials are urging the public to report sightings of the insect, which could be found on the sides of buildings, in or on vehicles, or on host plants or trees, through an online form.

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Anyone receiving goods from states where the spotted lanternfly is known to be present (Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia) should also be on the lookout, according to the state.

“The public should look for both adult insects (large, gray bugs, about one inch long, with black spots and red underwings), as well as nymphs (younger, wingless insects that are red with black and white markings),” officials said.

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