Child’s State Fair Display Triggers Federal Investigation
A child in Kansas tipped off federal authorities about a dangerous invader – but it’s not what you think. The boy, who found a spotted lanternfly at his home in Thomas County, Kansas, added it to his bug collection – and then entered the collection in the 4H competition of the Kansas State Fair.
One of the fair’s entomology judges recognized the lanternfly as an invasive species and reported it to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The boy told authorities that he found it on his patio in May, and experts believe it may have died sometime last year after hitching a ride on an agricultural shipment.
The lanternfly is an invasive species that poses a threat to several crops, including apples, grapes, hops and walnuts. It’s also dangerous to hardwood trees, because the waste it excretes encourages sooty mold – a fungal growth that kills plants. If spotted lanternflies continue to spread, they may severely harm the grape, orchard and logging industries all over the country. So far, the invasive pest has spread throughout eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Virginia.
USDA officials don’t currently believe that there’s an infestation in Kansas, but they are on the lookout for more of the pests. Working with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the USDA says it will work quickly to contain and destroy any spotted lanternflies that may be in the area to threaten crops and trees.