Bug Awareness Week
Illustration courtesy U.S. Army Environmental Command (Photo Credit: Quentin Johnson) VIEW ORIGINAL

Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. – To educate and inform the military community about illnesses transmitted by bugs and how to prevent bug bites at home or while deployed, IMCOM garrisons will observe Bug Week from June 19-25, 2023. It is crucial to know how to battle bugs or use them to you advantage.

In Maryland we have hundreds of species of arachnids and insects, but only some are considered invasive. Invasive species are organisms that are introduced to an area where they are not known to occur. An infestation ensues when a non-native organism such as an insect begins to spread from the site of its original introduction and has the potential to cause harm to the environment, the economy or human health. At APG and the surrounding areas there is an infestation of one invasive species that has everyone buzzing, the spotted lanternfly (SLF) (Lycorma delicatula).

SLF is a sap-feeding insect native to eastern Asia. It was detected in the United States in 2014 in Berks County, Pennsylvania. In Maryland, it was first discovered in Cecil County around October 2018.

The insect feeds by sucking sap from plant stems, trunks, and leaves. They feed on grapes, apples, peaches, walnuts, oaks, pines, and other plant species. While feeding, the SLF produces a sugary waste called honeydew which can stunt the growth of crops. Honeydew sticks to plant surfaces where it attracts other insects and supports the growth of sooty mold. Sooty mold can reduce the value of fruit, reduce plant photosynthesis, and weaken overall plant health.

According to the Armed Forces Pest Management Board, “The spotted lanternfly is an easily transported hitchhiking pest where adults and nymphs readily cling to clothing, cargo, automobiles, etc. in and near infested areas and have cryptic, well camouflaged overwintering eggs deposited on most surfaces, including landscaping, vehicles, cargo, household goods, construction material, etc.”

What can you do? Experts agree killing the pest is the best defense.

University of Maryland Extension (UME) recommends killing SLF adults and nymphs by, “Crushing them with gloved hands, stomping on them, smashing them with fly swatters, or drowning them in a container of soapy water or rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol).”

There are additional measures you can take to rid the pest from your home and neighborhood areas.

Residentially, UME says you should, “Scrape egg masses off plants and hard surfaces such as lawn furniture, decks, and concrete surfaces using a plastic card or tool such as a putty knife. The eggs must then be crushed to kill them.”

Prevention is key.

“Prevent the spread of the spotted lanternfly by inspecting your vehicle and any outdoor equipment (grills, mowers, camping supplies, firewood, etc.) and removing (them) and their egg masses when traveling in and out of the quarantine zones in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey,” UME experts explain.

Natural enemies of the SLF include spiders, praying mantis, assassin bugs, predatory stink bugs, and birds. You can support a healthy environment in your home landscape for natural predators by growing a variety of native flowering plants and plant types because plant diversity provides food and habitat for natural enemies.

The SLF does not bite or sting people or pets, and they are not wood-boring pests of homes or other structures. They do not kill trees but do cause stress on them. Be sure to protect your trees and plants with healthy water management, soil maintenance and mulching.

While the SLF is a nuisance, in terms of mitigation measures, the bug is not harming our landscape enough to justify the risks of using insecticidal sprays. Because the SLF is always on the move, spot or whole-yard insecticide treatment will only temporarily help the pest population while simultaneously jeopardizing many other organisms.

Jessica Baylor, APG Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division explains, “The DPW natural resources team is tracking the incidence of spotted lanternflies throughout the installation and monitoring the health of APG’s forests.”

More information on quarantine procedures can be found at, https://www.acq.osd.mil/eie/afpmb/docs/emerging/Spotted_lanternfly_information_bulletin.pdf.

Questions or concerns about this pest also can be submitted by email to DontBug.MD@maryland.gov or call (410) 841-5920.