Eighteen of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions are now under a quarantine order due to the spread of the spotted lantern fly, an invasive pest capable of harming local plant life.
Maryland’s Department of Agriculture expanded the quarantine order to seven more counties Monday, including Allegany, Calvert and Prince George’s counties, along with several on the Eastern Shore.
The order requires businesses transporting plants, yard waste, outdoor construction equipment and other items within or from the quarantine zone to receive a permit from the state, and have employees complete a training course about slowing the spread of the lantern fly.
Individual residents transporting the restricted items, which include firewood, lawn mowers, outdoor grills and recreational vehicles, are asked to inspect items for lantern flies using a checklist provided by the department.
The quarantine order has covered the entire Baltimore metropolitan area since early 2022. In Maryland, it started with Cecil and Harford counties in 2019.
Now, the only Maryland counties that aren’t included are: Charles, Dorchester, Garrett, Somerset, St. Mary’s and Worcester.
Native to eastern Asia, the spotted lantern fly was first seen in the U.S. in Pennsylvania in 2014, but has since spread throughout the Eastern U.S. The species is known to feed on 70 different plant species, causing damage and stunting growth. The list includes grapevines, black cherry trees and sycamores.
As the lantern flies feed on the plants, sucking sap from trunks and stems, they excrete a sugary substance called honeydew, which attracts other insects such as ants and bees. As the substance ferments, it emits a foul odor, and it is often colonized by black, sooty mold, which also can inhibit the plant’s growth.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture recommends trapping the insects or killing them by hand before considering the use of insecticides, which can kill native insects as well.
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“Marylanders need to realize that SLF [spotted lantern fly] is going to remain present in the landscape despite most management efforts. The extent of each property owner’s response will need to be measured against how much of a problem the SLF are,” reads a notice on the department’s website.
As early nymphs, the lantern flies are black with white spots. As they grow, they develop a bright red color with white spots. As adults, they develop patterned wings. Their forewings are light brown with black spots, and their hindwings are mainly red with black spots.