WESTFIELD, NJ — It was hanging out in front of 16 Prospect Wine Bar & Bistro, and it wasn’t there to order a martini.
The spotted lanternfly that restaurant owner Tim Boyle spotted on his window and squashed was one of an invasive and destructive species that the New Jersey Department of Agriculture has asked residents to kill.
“I’m really worried about seeing this insect around here. They are absolutely devastating,” Boyle said Monday. “I’m going to do an inspection of all our plants tomorrow.”
While the spotted lanternfly is no threat to humans or animals, it is known to feed on 70 different types of plants and trees, according to the NJDA. The bug, which originated in Asia, is a plant hopper and can only fly short distances, but it’s been spreading out by hitching a ride on people’s cars.
It has already been sighted in Maplewood and South Orange as well, according to area residents posting in a local gardening group on Facebook.
The NJDA asked that anyone who travels in a quarantined county do a quick inspection of their vehicle for spotted lanternflies before leaving. Quarantined counties in New Jersey are Warren, Hunterdon, Mercer, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem and Somerset.
Union is not on the list of quarantined counties and Greg O’Neil, Westfield’s director of public works, said that he has not seen any spotted lanternflies in town. The pest may be confused with some beetles that are actually native to the area, O’Neil noted. (A spokesman for the NJDA confirmed that what Boyle killed on Prospect Street Monday was, indeed, a spotted lanternfly.)
“If you see one or you think you see one, try to capture it and put it in a plastic bag and take it to the Rutgers Cooperative Extension so they can properly ID it,” O’Neil said.
The NJDA is asking people to report the exact address of sightings outside quarantined counties by emailing Slfemail@example.com or by calling 609-406-6943.
This video shared by the NJDA shows one way you can help when the spotted lanternfly begins laying egg masses in early to mid-September:
It’s believed that the bug needs trees of heaven (themselves an invasive species) to reproduce. Those are the trees that the NJDA is treating, the department said.
If you have an infestation and would like to treat your property yourself, the NJDA shared a list of ways to kill it at https://bit.ly/3eIuTEi. It does not recommend using sticky traps, as they may harm other wildlife.
The Westfield DPW has dealt with invasive pests before, O’Neil said. “Hopefully we can get a good handle on this one, too.”
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