NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Survey teams from the state were out Monday looking for an invasive insect spotted in Middle Tennessee, but Tennessee’s climate could complicate the response.

Emerging in late summer and early fall, the spotted lanternfly is an invasive species. The bugs are also normally nearly one inch long and half an inch wide.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture confirmed one of the brightly spotted tree hoppers were found in Davidson County in late September. Since then, the state entomologist said officials are working to study samples, carry out surveillance, and conduct research on the insects in Hermitage and surrounding areas.

“We are still looking for the spotted lanternfly. We’ve got surveyors out [Monday] actually, and we’re trying to determine where they are. As the weather gets colder, adults are going to be dying off and we’re going to be switching over to the egg mass survey,” said Cindy Bilbrey,
the state entomologist with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

While visually stunning, spotted lanternflies are harmful to a range of crops and natural resources in our state. Businesses selling wood products and fruit growers could be especially vulnerable. State officials said the adult females can lay two to three egg masses with 30-50 eggs in each of them.

If officials can find and destroy them now, next year’s potential population will be much smaller. However, there’s still a learning curve when it comes to handling them in Tennessee’s climate.

“We are waiting on that too cold for adults to survive stage and we’re not exactly sure how long that will take. In Pennsylvania, they say if you have a couple of 20-degree nights then you’ll be okay, but we don’t really get quite that cold, so we’re not exactly sure how those adults are going to survive in our environment,” said Bilbrey.

Tennessee is the 16th state to detect the spotted lanternfly since it was first discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014. For now, officials said only time will tell the best way to move forward in combatting them locally in the long-term.

“We’re still in that information gathering stage and as time goes on, we’ll have to determine if we need to take regulatory action or not,” said Bilbrey.