Be on alert for invasive insect that sucks life out of trees that mean big business in the Finger Lakes

As if the fight against the emerald ash borer and Asian long-horned beetles isn’t enough, now there’s a new threat to trees in the Finger Lakes region: the spotted lanternfly.

Along with threatening forests and neighborhoods, this insect sucks the sap out of trees the Finger Lakes needs for tourism and agriculture. More than 70 plant species send the spotted lanternfly into a feeding frenzy — including maples, apple trees, grape vines, and hops.

Native to China, India and Vietnam, the spotted lanternfly was spotted in Pennsylvania in 2014 — and it’s coming this way.

“It’s an amazing flyer,” said Jacob Young, district manager for the Rochester-area branch of Davey Tree Expert.

So far the insect hasn’t been reported in the Rochester-Finger Lakes region. But a dead one was spotted last fall in Delaware County and it is suspected to have invaded the Albany area, Young said.

“It makes great leaps,” said Young, adding it could make it two or three counties over in no time.

While the insect can jump and fly short distances, the pests spread primarily through human activity, according to the state Departments of Environmental Conservation. The spotted lanternfly lay their eggs on surfaces such as vehicles, stone, rusty metal, outdoor furniture, and firewood. When these items are moved, the insects can hitch rides to new areas.

The DEC and state Department of Agriculture and Markets have ramped up inspections and surveillance and urge people to look for and report sightings. The young insects are black with white spots and turn red before transitioning into adults. Adults, which resemble moths, begin to appear in July and are about one-inch long and half an inch wide at rest, with eye-catching wings.

Signs of an infestation include sap oozing or weeping from tiny open wounds on tree trunks, which appear wet and give off fermented odors; one-inch long egg masses that are brownish-gray, waxy and mud-like when new (old egg masses are brown and scaly); and massive honeydew build-up under plants, sometimes with black sooty mold.

People are urged to send photos and report possible sightings to the DEC at spottedlanternfly@dec.ny.gov. For more information, visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/113303.html