The spotted lanternfly, an invasive bug species native to southeast Asia, has been spotted in Rochester, according to the New York State (NYS) Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Since the bug was first detected in Pennsylvania in 2014, spotted lanternfly populations have boomed across the United States. Today, they’re found in 14 states including New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Anyone who comes across a spotted lanternfly is advised to kill it — or, as the Michigan Invasive Species Program’s campaign eloquently puts it: “See it. Squish it. Report it.”

While the bugs don’t bite or sting, they pose a threat to preferred crops such as grapes, grape vines, and trees, which may leave area vineyards increasingly vulnerable, according to Cornell University and NYS’ Integrated Pest Management Program. New York is the third largest wine producing state in the nation, according to Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Science.

Chris Logue, the director of the Division of Plant Industry with the NYS Department of Agriculture, highlighted concerns about the spread of the insect.

“For spotted lanternflies in New York, it could have a very large impact on the New York State grape and wine industry which is valued I believe at about $300 million annually,” he told Rochester First.

Damage from the spotted lanternfly leaves plants more susceptible to drought stress and other attacks from insects and diseases, Logue continued. The bugs also secrete a sticky material called “honeydew” that may cause sooty mold, which reduces photosynthesis in plants and causes an “off” flavor in grapes.

Spotted lanternflies remain a prominent invasive species throughout the news. A known hitchhiker, and a name in the States for roughly nine years, their ramping spread has yet to be stopped.

In early June, Congressman Joe Morelle introduced legislation that would invest in both developing solutions to manage invasive species and relief for farmers suffering the impacts of frost and severe weather. Senator Chuck Schumer similarly called for aid last year to support New York State efforts to combat the pest.

“For years now, I have warned about the pest, but now we are demanding action because pockets of Upstate New York are now infested by the bug that wreaks havoc on trees, vineyards and crops,” Schumer said in 2022. “This is a multi-million dollar threat to New York’s economy. Both tourism and agriculture are now at risk if the spotted lanternfly goes unchecked. But the good news here is that we have federal funds already in place, that I secured, to help New York contain the bug, and that we will be pushing for more.”

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