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Highly invasive spotted lanternfly found in Downtown Cleveland

The insect could have a hugely negative impact on Ohio agriculture.

CLEVELAND — Lakeside Avenue, just east of Downtown Cleveland, is home to an invader.

Near East 26th, the area is mostly busy with train traffic rumbling by, but the railroad corridor has trees that attracted spotted lanternflies. The wayward bugs are highly invasive.

"They're excellent hitchhikers, for sure," Dan Kenny, chief the the Ohio Department of Agriculture's Division of Plant Health, said. "We definitely have detected spotted lanternfly along the rail lines, but also rest stops and other areas like that."

Officials are finding more and more of the bad bugs in Ohio. The oversized plant hopper from Asia is spreading here from Pennsylvania and Virginia at an alarming rate, just like it's host plant: the tree of heaven.

"It'll grow so fast, it clones itself," student researcher Max Miller, who worked the summer tracking the insect with scientists, told 3News. "You'll see whole colonies of it together."

Credit: Carl Bachtel, 3News

The wayward insects really are bad actors, and Miller says the potential impacts could be huge.

"The spotted lanternfly likes a lot of the crops that we like," he explained. "It's a big problem for wineries, in particular".

According to Kenny, the insect may harm other agricultural products, as well.

"The science so far does indicate that, at a minimum, it would increase the cost of production for vineyards, for one," he said. "Orchards and other crops, too, could be affected."

The state is asking for the public's help in tracking the lanternfly. The more eyes looking for this destructive pest, the better.

"The best detection tool that we have, because the lanternfly so unique looking, is the general public," Kenny declared.

The bugs are about 1/2 an inch long. Their outer wings are gray and have black spots, while their underwings are quite stunning and flash bright red, white, and black. Report any sightings here, and in the meantime, experts suggest dispatching the bug, if you can.

   

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