Another invasive species is feeding on Missouri’s forests and food supply. It’s called the Spotted Lanternfly, a large planthopper native to Asia that feeds on the sap of over 70 plant species.

Sarah Phipps is a state survey coordinator with the Missouri Department of Agriculture. She told Missourinet that it was first detected in Pennsylvania in 2014.

“It’s about an inch long and it’s not a fly like its name states, but it’s actually closely related to an aphid or a cicada and it’s a very unique looking insect,” Phipps said. “It has greyish colored front wings with black spots and when it jumps or flies, you will then see a flash of red on the back wings. So, it’s a very striking looking insect.”

The Spotted Lanternfly finds its way to new areas primarily through human travel. Phipps said that the planthoppers are native to Asia and make an excellent hitchhiker.

“So what they think happened was there was a stone slab company in Pennsylvania and basically, in 2014 is when they found the population, and we think the egg masses, the Spotted Lanternfly laid the egg masses on these large stone slabs and then they got shipped across the seas,” she said. “Since then, it’s now found in 14 states.”

They lay their egg masses on hard, smooth surfaces, including firewood, landscape materials, outdoor furniture, and vehicles.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture said the Spotted Lanternfly is a threat to recreation and tourism in the state.

“One of their favorite hosts is grapevines,” according to Phipps. “So, we’re really concerned with the vineyards because vineyards in Pennsylvania where the Spotted Lanternfly was first found, some of the vineyards went out of business because of this pest. They also really like trees. So, they will feed on maple trees, apple, walnut, and then we have the invasive Tree of Heaven, and they really like that tree also.”

If you do spot the insect, take a snapshot, catch it in a mason jar, and alert the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

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