DEC: Be on the lookout for spotted lanternfly

Spotted lanternfly may be in the Rochester area this season. The DEC is asking people to report possible sightings.

It looks like a tan-gray splotch of mud on the side of a tree. Come late summer or fall, it could also be the first indication the spotted lanternfly has arrived. "It's likely - a very high probability - it's going to move through New York state," said Walter Nelson of Cornell Cooperative Extension.

The small insect could be a massive threat to fruit growers and the tourism industry.

The fly itself also blends in with the color of tree bark. It came over from Asia aboard something shipped toe United States. Only about an inch in length, it moves in devastating swarms that literally suck the life from fruit and hardwood trees. "It is a sucking insect that puts its feeding tube through the bark of a tree to suck the sap out of the plant," said Nelson. "It's like losing the blood of the tree."

It is a threat to apple, peach and plumb trees, and also grape vines. An infestation would also impact tourism associated with farms, maple syrup and wine.

A dead fly was found outside the Catskills last season. Infestations have been discovered in Pennsylvania. The Department of Environmental Conservation says anyone traveling to quarantine areas in south east Pennsylvania should look out for unknown hitchhikers. "The female is not too fussy about where she lays her eggs. If you park your camper in the Poconos, she'll lay her eggs, then you'll bring them back with you," Nelson says.

The eggs are laid as early as July and through September.

The DEC has more information about the spotted lanternfly and is asking people to photograph and report possible sightings.

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