It’s a different kind of egg hunt.
Long Islanders were urged Thursday to report any “egg masses” they spot this spring that could hatch into tree-destroying spotted lanternflies, an invasive species first spotted in Pennsylvania in 2014.
“This pest has the potential to severely impact our forests, as well as our state’s agricultural and tourism industries,” state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement.The insects, which have two sets of multicolor wings and look like escapees from horror movies, devour sap, often creating weeping wounds in their hosts that draw other insect swarms, experts said.
Their so-called “honeydew” secretions can coat their host, allowing sooty mold to grow.
“In Pennsylvania, where spotted lanternfly infestations are the densest, people can’t go outside without getting honeydew on their hair, clothes, and other belongings,” the DEC said in a statement with the Department of Agriculture and Markets.
The pests can also cause major damage to crops, such as grapes, hops, almonds, apples, and cherries, as well as trees, including oak, pine, poplar and sycamore, experts said.
Long Island forests, already stressed by oak wilt, southern pine beetle and gypsy moth, are particularly at risk because they have lots of the pests’ favorite host, the non-native tree of heaven (ailanthus). People who own such trees, whose winged fruit turns red at maturity, should be especially vigilant, experts said. The adults are about one inch long and a half-inch wide with large wings that are speckled, dotted and striped in black, brown, red, yellow and white.
Bark camouflages them unless they are startled and expose their distinctive red hind wings, according to the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The insects lay eggs on many surfaces, from firewood and lawnmowers to yard waste and vehicles, experts said.
Adult insects lay their eggs from late September to October, said Dan Gilrein, an entomologist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. Wingless, black-and-white nymphs hatch from April to May, becoming adults in July. Just one egg mass might contain 30 to 50 eggs, Gilrein said by email.
New York’s prevention efforts include inspecting commercial vehicles coming from 13 Pennsylvania counties that were put under quarantine after the bug was found there, among other steps, officials said.
Anyone who sees an egg mass, nymph or adult in New York should photograph it, note the location, and report it at http://www.nyimapinvasives.org, the DEC said. Egg masses should be destroyed, it says.
Humans have at least one advantage. Cold weather kills the adult pests, Gilrein said. “They don’t over-winter,” he said.