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This Labor Day Weekend Make Sure You Aren’t Harbouring These Pesky Hitchhikers

DOWNLOAD 🎧: MDA’s spotted lanternfly-inspired Spotify playlist for your Labor Day Weekend road trip!

It’s here! The final vacation before summer fades into fall and school drop-offs, endless sports practices, and afterschool activities pick back up. For many, Labor Day Weekend means trying to soak up the last few summer days and rays with trips to the beach, the lake, or the mountains. 

As you pack the car, van, camper, or trailer for your weekend getaways, the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) asks that you check your vehicles for the spotted lanternfly. The spotted lanternfly is an invasive pest that has the potential to devastate over 70+ agricultural products. 

Labor Day Weekend Checklist:

  • Beach towels – ✅
  • Sunscreen – ✅
  • Bug Spray – ✅
  • Sunglasses – ✅
  • Blankets/Sleeping Bags – ✅
  • EZ Pass – ✅
  • Checking the car for spotted lanternfly – ✅

What to look for?

Currently the spotted lanternfly is in its adult life stage. At maturity they are 1 inch in length and appear with grey-brown spotted front wings and brilliant red and black hind wings. Their hindwings are most noticeable when they are inflight or feel threatened. Check out the photos below to see what to be on the lookout for!

Spotted lanternfly are known planthoppers and excellent hitchhikers. Latching on to and launching off of anything they can, it is especially crucial to inspect your cars and belongings for these bad bugs. 

What do I do if I find a spotted lanternfly?

Snap a photo and then squash it! Spotted lanternfly do not bite or sting, so go ahead and smash away. 

Report your sightings to the Maryland Department of Agriculture via this online survey. Your submissions will help us track spotted lanternfly movement around the state. 

Where are they now?

These pests originally appeared in Berks County, Pennsylvania in 2014 and have increasingly spread to 34 counties throughout the Keystone State and several more states on the East Coast.

In Maryland, populations of spotted lanternfly can be found primarily in Cecil and Harford Counties. These two counties currently have business and residential quarantine restrictions in place. Businesses that operate or move material within Cecil or Harford County must obtain a business permit. Residential permits are not required, but Marylanders in these counties are encouraged to survey their properties and inspect their vehicles for spotted lanternfly before moving any materials like cut wood, pallets, trailers, stone, boxes, etc. Use MDA’s Spotted Lanternfly Checklist to ensure your items are pest-free before you go. 

Outside these two spotted lanternfly hot spots, these insects have been found in the following Maryland counties: Frederick, Kent, Carroll, Baltimore, Howard, and Anne Arundel. MDA survey data has shown that spotted lanternfly populations have spread along major highways and travel routes, making it especially critical that vehicles are checked for the pest before leaving home.

Why are spotted lanternfly such a threat?

Though the preferred host of the spotted lanternfly is the tree of heaven, Ailanthus altissima, they also feed on valuable agricultural crops like grapes, hops, peaches, apples, blueberries, cucumbers, oaks, black walnuts, certain maples, eastern white pines, birches, willows, and many more. The spotted lanternfly feeds on sap from the roots of these plants and trees, causing damage to them in the process and leaving them more susceptible to disease. 

The spotted lanternfly also excretes honeydew, a sticky, sugary substance that enables the growth of black sooty mold that is harmful to plants and trees. Spotted lanternfly honeydew can also be quite a nuisance on outdoor furniture and other equipment.

Spotted lanternfly has the potential to impact wineries, breweries, fresh produce, lumber, nurseries, forestry, and other industries! According to PennState Extension, if not contained, the spotted lanternfly could cost Pennsylvania’s economy at least $324 million annually. 

Labor Day Weekend

With your help, we can slow the spread of this invasive pest and protect Maryland’s agriculture industry and our hardworking Maryland producers. Make sure you aren’t giving any unwanted hitchhikers a lift this holiday weekend and inspect your vehicle and items for spotted lanternfly when going to and from your destination. 

We’ve all got our eye on you spotted lanternfly!

Contact Information

If you have any questions, need additional information or would like to arrange an interview, please contact:
Jessica Hackett
Director of Communications
Telephone: 410-841-5888