Aug. 6 2018 12:00 AM

Invasive pest threatens grapevines and trees.

Spotted lanternfly nymph
Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

The spotted lanternfly, an invasive and destructive insect from Asia, has found its way to Trenton, New Jersey, according to a story in the New Jersey Herald.

The bug, native to China, East Asia, India and Vietnam, was first located in Pennsylvania in 2014. Since then, it’s spread to 13 of that state’s counties.

This agricultural pest can decrease a grape harvest by 75 to 90 percent, according to the Rutgers University Cooperative Extension.

The nymphs feed by sinking their piercing mouth parts into plants such as Tree of Heaven, its favorite host (the New Jersey sighting was made on one of those trees) and sucking sap out. Nearby Trees of Heaven were treated to keep the bug from from spreading further.

But it’s not that picky an eater. It also plagues more than 70 different plant species, including fruit, ornamental and woody trees, vegetables, herbs and vines.

When it feeds, the spotted lanternfly creates a weeping wound, and the exuding sweet sap attracts wasps, hornets, ants and bees.

Residents of Warren County are asked to be on the lookout for the bug, currently in its nymph stage, about a half-inch to three-quarters of an inch long and likely to be black or red with white spots.

Personnel from the New Jersey and U.S. Departments of Agriculture confirmed the sighting. Field crews have been scouting for the insect along the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border since 2014, but hadn’t found any until now. Surveillance in that area and along the Delaware River border will continue.

The public is being asked for help in identifying areas where the insect may be, and to inspect their vehicles before coming back into New Jersey.

Spotted lanternfly has a history of being an excellent hitchhiker, having the ability to hang on to vehicles as they travel from one state to another. Its movement into new areas happens through the relocation of adults, nymphs or egg masses.