INDIANAPOLIS (WANE) — On Monday, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced three more confirmed sightings of spotted lanternflies in Indiana.
Two of the sightings happened just outside northeast Indiana in Elkhart and Mishawaka, and the sightings come roughly 15 months after the DNR found the spotted lanternfly in Huntington County.
The third sighting happened in Porter County north of Valparaiso.
Megan Abraham, director of the DNR’s Division of Entomology & Plant Pathology, said the invasive species has not caused significant problems in Indiana so far, but officials still hope to slow the spread so things do not get worse in Indiana and elsewhere.
Although Abraham said the spotted lanternfly will likely be nothing more than a “nuisance pest” in Indiana, she said the species does pose a significant threat to orchards and vineyards, so officials hope to keep the spotted lanternfly from spreading out west.
“The intent behind this program is to slow down how fast this infestation moves across the U.S. so that we give our partners out on the West Coast that have the biggest stakes in vineyards and orchards the best chance of survival,” Abraham said.
Although crews are working to stem the spread of the spotted lanternfly, Abraham said there are currently no effective traps available to stop the spread.
Instead, crews can only stifle the population either through pesticides or removing egg masses once they are found, although Abraham said even those efforts can be difficult.
“There are just so many [egg masses] that you can’t reach because they like to lay their eggs higher up in the tree canopy,” Abraham said.
According to the DNR, another major issue with the spotted lanternfly is that they can easily be spread through materials that are commonly transported by train, and the three recent sightings each happened near railroad tracks.
Abraham said tree of heaven, an invasive plant species that is also a main food source of the spotted lanternfly, are common along railways.
Even though the DNR has only found the spotted lanternfly in five counties, Abraham said the species is likely in other areas as well.
“I would say if you’re in a county with a lot of freight and [railways] that there’s an awfully good chance that it might already be with you,” Abraham said. “We’re starting to see that these infestations seem to be following along those rail lines pretty quickly.”
Abraham said the best way for the DNR to stay ahead of spotted lanternfly infestations is for the general public to pay attention to their neighborhoods for any potential signs that the spotted lanternfly is around.
The DNR learned about Huntington’s infestation through a Facebook post, and with a limited amount of staff, Abraham said the public’s help is needed.
“Because we only have 12 people who work in my division throughout the entire state, we really rely on the public to kind of let us know when they see something different or spot something that’s not supposed to be there,” Abraham said.
Originally from Asia, the first U.S. sighting happened in 2014 Pennsylvania, and the species has since spread to many areas in the Midwest.
Anyone who sees a spotted lanternfly or its egg masses should contact the DNR at 866-663-9684 or DEPP@dnr.in.gov.