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It's time to start looking for the invasive spotted lanternfly in New York

Adobe Stock/Lee

(NCPR) State officials are telling the public to look out for a new invasive species that threatens a key sector of New York's agricultural industry. The spotted lanternfly hasn’t been reported in the North Country yet, but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down.

The spotted lanternfly is an invasive insect that came over from Asia about a decade ago. It looks kind of like a moth, with black polka dots on its beige wings.

Chris Logue is from the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets. He updated the press at a briefing on Wednesday.

“It does not pose any sort of a health risk, it doesn’t sting, it doesn’t bite people or animals," said Logue, "so from that perspective, we don’t have as deep a concern.”

What Logue and many others do have a concern over is the insect’s impact on agriculture, specifically grapes. The grape and wine industry generates billions of dollars each year, and the spotted lanternfly poses a risk to that industry.

“It basically sucks the sap out of the plant," said Logue. "It can stress plants out. It can make them more susceptible to drought stress, it can make them more susceptible to other attacks from other insects and diseases.”

The spotted lanternfly has been reported in 15 of the state’s counties and in every New York City borough. One place the invasive insect hasn’t been reported in is the North Country.

“We do have some modeling data that indicates that maybe there are some parts of New York State where the winter is going to be a little bit too severe or the growing season a little bit short for the spotted lanternfly to get to the point where they’re laying eggs," explained Logue.

That modeling data isn’t definitive, though, so Logue said people in the North Country shouldn't let their guard down.

If you do see a spotted lanternfly, nymphs, or signs of its larvae, Logue and others say you should do what you can to kill them. You can also report your sighting with a photo and location info to the state’s Department of Agriculture.

Emily Russell, NCPR