Authorities across the Mid-Atlantic keep expanding spotted lanternfly quarantine zones, but the tenacious bugs don’t seem to be getting the message.

In February, Pennsylvania officials added six counties — Butler, Clearfield, Clinton, Fayette, Lawrence and Somerset — to their list of counties under quarantine, bringing the total to 51 statewide. In doing so, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding sounded an optimistic note: “Through collective and intentional efforts, including instituting quarantine zones, we continue to slow the spread of this insect, and I call on all Pennsylvanians to assist.”

The spotted lanternfly is an invasive species that can cause great damage to crops. Credit: Caitlyn Johnstone/Chesapeake Bay Program

Maryland officials enlarged their quarantine in March to cover nearly the entire state. They added seven counties: Allegany, Calvert, Caroline, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s, Talbot and Wicomico. That raised the number of counties in the quarantine to 17; Baltimore city is also included.

And in Virginia, the quarantine now covers 22 jurisdictions, up from four from the beginning of 2022. The latest additions rein in the Shenandoah Valley region as well as pockets in the southwest and near Washington, DC.  

The quarantines restrict the transport of items known to enable the spread of lanternflies during any stage of life. Regulated items include plants, construction waste, firewood, packing materials and vehicles.

Businesses, municipalities and government agencies that require the movement of such items must obtain a specialized permit. Permits for Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware are transferable throughout the region.

Experts believe the brightly colored pests first arrived in the United States in 2014 in Berks County, PA, in a shipment of stone from their native China. Since then, infestations have been declared as far north as Michigan and as far south as North Carolina. Lanternflies have been reported in every Chesapeake Bay watershed state except the District of Columbia.

Agriculture officials and farmers have been keeping a wary eye on the outbreak for years. Lanternflies are voracious eaters that can feed on 70 types of plants and crops, ranging from apples to peaches and oaks to pines. Grape growers have been on high alert since entire vineyards in Pennsylvania were lost in the early days of the invasion.

Pennsylvania has spent more than $50 million combatting the bug since 2015, with more than half of the funding coming from the federal government. This year, the state is making available grants of up to $25,000 to help conservation districts strengthen businesses’ and residents’ compliance with the quarantine.

This article originally appeared on and is republished with permission.

Jeremy Cox

Jeremy Cox is a Bay Journal staff writer based in Maryland.

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