LYNCHBURG, Va. – Lookout, Lynchburg! An insect invasion is on the rise in the Hill City.
Sarah Hagan, Lynchburg’s urban forester, is on pest patrol, checking traps and trying to spot the spotted lanternfly.
“They do not sting. They do not bite. They don’t really fly. They’re more hoppers and crawlers, but they’re an extreme nuisance,” said Hagan.
The invasive insect is known for killing crops like grapes, peaches and hops.
“They’re sucking insects, so they draw the sap from the plants and then killed them that way,” said Joel Koci, an urban forester with the Virginia Cooperative Extension, a group monitoring the infestation.
The spotted lanternfly releases that sap, creating a sticky honeydew.
“[The Honey dew] will grow sitting mold, so it will literally rain insect poo on your car, on your deck, on your deck,” said Hagan.
Koci says the spotted lanternfly first arrived in the U.S. from China in 2014.
“Its egg masses are laid on flat surfaces. It came from rocks shipped to Pennsylvania,” said Koci.
The bugs commuted to the Commonwealth in 2018 and were first reported in Lynchburg last year.
“Our best guess is that [the species] hitchhiked down here. Not exactly sure how, but right now the infestation is associated with Norfolk Southern Rail,” said Hagan.
Experts identified about two-and-a-half miles where the bugs rode the rails between Wards Road and Odd Fellows Road.
Hagan says they’ll begin laying eggs in about a month, so they’re asking people to report where the insects are, and aren’t, to help narrow the search.
“Report it and also take a picture and squish it,” said Hagan.
You can find the reporting website here.