Invasive insect threatens native trees and plants, and can destroy valuable crops.

A different kind of Earth Day project is available in April to all Union County residents and visitors this spring: help destroy the spotted lanternfly and its eggs, too. It is important to act at now, because the eggs of the spotted lanternfly typically hatch from late April to early May.

Earth Day 2021 will take place on Thursday, April 22.

“The spotted lanternfly is a new pest that threatens our efforts to preserve native habitat in our public parks. We all have a stake in ensuring that the spotted lanternfly does not take hold in Union County, so please keep an eye out for the adults and eggs in your backyard, and in parks and other public places,” said Union County Board of Commissioners Chairman Al Mirabella.

Both juvenile and adult spotted lanternflies are eye-catching. The juveniles will appear by May, after the eggs hatch. They are small, crawling insects about the size of the dime. They have shiny black coats with bright white spots, or red coats with white spots and black stripes. Their legs are black with white spots.

The adult is about the size of a typical moth, or slightly larger. Their upper wings are a papery whitish hue with black speckles.  The upper wings open to reveal bright red and black lower wings underneath.

When startled, the adult can quickly hop and glide away like a grasshopper, so stealth is advised when approaching one. Both adults and juveniles should be immediately crushed underfoot, or by any other means.

The eggs are more difficult to distinguish, because they are laid in flat, grayish patches that can blend into their surroundings. However, there are telltale signs. A freshly laid egg patch resembles a small dab of wet mud, about 1” long. Over time, it develops cracks that can resemble miniature tire treads. The appearance of seed-like rows means the eggs are ready to hatch.

Lanternflies prefer to lay their eggs on flat surfaces. The egg patches mainly appear on trees about 10 feet off the ground. They can also appear on rocks, vehicles and other manufactured surfaces.

Egg patches should be destroyed by using a plastic card or other sturdy object to crush them where they are, then scraping them off the surface.

The spotted lanternfly is an invasive species and a serious threat to New Jersey’s agriculture industry and wildlife habitats. It can damage or kill native trees like the black walnut, red maple, silver maple, and river birch. It can also carve a destructive path through valuable crops and other plants.

To help fight the spotted lanternfly in New Jersey, report sightings to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture by using the online reporting tool.  For other questions about the spotted lanternfly, contact the Department of Agriculture at 1-866-BAD-BUGZ or email SLF-plantindustry@ag.nj.gov.

For more information, including photos of the lanternfly and its eggs at various stages, visit nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/pi/prog/spottedlanternfly.

Information on Earth Day activities at Union County’s Trailside Nature and Science Center will be available soon at ucnj.org/trailside. The Trailside Center is located in the Watchung Reservation, at 452 New Providence Road in Mountainside.

For quick links to all Union County environmental programs and activities visit The Green Connection, ucnj.org/green-connection.

For information and updates on all Union County services during the COVID-19 outbreak, including guidance for using the Drive-Through Test Center at Kean University and a list of locations for walk-up tests in local communities, visit ucnj.org/coronavirus-update.

For general information about COVID-19 and phone contacts for 24/7 assistance with questions, visit the New Jersey Department of Health at nj.gov/health.

For all Union County programs and services visit ucnj.org, call the Public Info Line, 877-424-1234, email info@ucnj.org or use the online Contact Form.

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