CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -You’ve probably never heard of the spotted lanternfly and officials are hoping you never see one in Ohio.
The invasive bug was first seen in Eastern Pennsylvania in 2014 but has been spreading west to multiple counties.
Native to parts of Asia, the bug may have hitched a ride on shipping boats and is now causing havoc to trees and crops like grapes in Pennsylvania.
“It doesn’t bite or cause any known medical threat to people or pets, but it is becoming a major concern for the damage it does to the plants it feeds on,” according to Gavin Svenson with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
The bugs travel in large numbers and are very good jumpers, more than fliers.
In massive numbers they can destroy fruit crops and trees.
“They feed on plants by stabbing their straw-like mouth-parts into the plant’s nutrient rich phloem," Sveson siad. “This can not only damage the tree and starve it, it can lead to infestation by sooty molds that grow thanks to the excrement of the feeding insects.”
That black soot-like mold is harmless except for the major inconvenience of making a mess of your home, outdoor furniture and kids playgrounds.
In Pennsylvania, the numbers are so great people complain of not being able to be outside because the bugs will jump, but not bite.
“There is hope they will be contained and eradicated before they spread beyond Eastern Pennsylvania,” Svenson said. “A significant amount of resources are being invested in researching the species and how to stop their spread. However, individuals are now being found outside of the main infestation area in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and other surrounding states, but so far none in Ohio that we know of.”
Sveson warns anyone who may travel or hike in eastern Pennsylvania may want to inspect their belongings and vehicles before coming back to Ohio to make sure you don’t transport one back.
“They are obvious to identify and really quite nice looking, so spotting them is easy,” Svenson said. “If you see them, yes, take steps to destroy them. Squish away, but make sure you know what you are looking at."