An invasive bug threatening crops from apples to maple products has made its way to Massachusetts.
Officials have found a small population of spotted lanterflies in Fitchburg, nearby where a nymph was found in August, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources announced Tuesday. The inch-long gray bug, notable for its red underwings and black spots, was also seen in Vermont earlier this year.
“The spotted lanternfly can have devastating impacts on Massachusetts’ agricultural industry, including on a number of farms and orchards in this part of the state that we want to protect from this pest,” MDAR commissioner John Lebeaux said.
The insects have thus far been found in only three trees in the Fitchburg area, officials said, but agricultural inspectors are continuing to search the area for additional infestations.
Lanternflies are often found on the sides of buildings and vehicles, or on their favorite plants — tree of heaven, grape vines, and maple and walnut trees.
If spotted, residents are asked to photograph, collect and report the insects to the state. The laternflies may appear in their gray, red and black adult form, as eggs in inch-long, yellowish-brown rectangular shapes covered with a gray waxy coating.
“Early detection and reporting is the best way to slow the spread of spotted lanternfly,” Lebeaux said. “[If] members of the public, particularly those in the Fitchburg area, have seen this pest, they are asked to report it as soon as possible.”
Officials do not know how the lanternflies arrived Fitchburg, but often the bugs are spread on traveling vehicles or in shipments of produce, wood or landscaping materials.
Originally from Asia, the lanternflies first arrived in the United States in 2014, and have since spread to at least 10 states, mostly in the Northeast.
Story by Will Katcher, masslive.com