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State officials urge residents to watch for invasive species that can damage trees and crops

An example of a spotted lanternfly, an invasive pest making its way into New York
An example of a spotted lanternfly, an invasive pest making its way into New York

State officials are asking New Yorkers for help in identifying the latest invasive species to creep into the state. The spotted lanternfly is spreading to a growing number of counties in New York, including the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions.

The butterfly-like insect is easy to identify. An adult is a mix of grey, red and black wings with black spots. That colorful wingspan however is cover for a destructive pest that can destroy agricultural crops as well as trees in residential areas.

It’s moved from Pennsylvania to the mid-Atlantic states, and now has been identified in several New York counties, from the metro New York area, to the Finger Lakes, specifically Ithaca.

"We’re concerned about it because it’s a very good hitchhiker, said Chris Logue of the New York State Department of Ag and Markets. “It flies as well, but it’s a weak flyer. So the main way it moves from place to place over long distances, is through human-assisted movement."

While it can damage more than 70 different species of plants, one major concern is for the state’s wine industry. It’s already done damage to Pennsylvania's vineyards.

"We’ve done outreach with the grape industry and also through the New York State Wine and Grape Foundation to be sure our partners in the grape industry are aware of this, Logue said.”

Identifying and destroying the pests early on is key. That’s where New Yorkers can help, according to Logue.

“If someone from the general public finds one, if they can take a photo of it and report it through the recording tool, that’s helpful,” he said. “It’s also helpful if they can safely collect a sample of the spotted lanternfly."

Information about how to help is on the NYS Agriculture and Markets website.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.