(WANE) — It’s hard not to think the spotted lanternfly, marked with spots and a pair of red wings, is stunning. Despite its looks, the bug can pose a serious problem.
Wildlife officials nationwide, including the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR), are still keeping tabs on the spotted lanternfly, which was first detected in the U.S. in 2014. Native to China, the insect was first found in Pennsylvania and has since been reported in Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Most states are at risk of being impacted by the spotted lanternfly, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Late last summer, when the bugs were in their mature stage, officials were encouraging those that saw the insect to kill it. Now that spring is here, their target is the spotted lanternfly’s eggs.
According to the Indiana DNR, the insect’s eggs usually hatch around late April.
The spotted lanternfly usually lays its eggs on smooth surfaces and can be found in crevices on trees, rocks or fences, according to the DNR.
The eggs resemble “wheat kernels strung together in several rows” and, at first, may appear to be “silly putty” before eventually taking on the appearance of dried mud.
Since they began removing egg masses in early February, Indiana officials say they’ve destroyed more than 540,000 spotted lanternfly eggs.
If you find an egg mass in an area already known to have spotted lanternflies, the USDA says you should crush the mass and scrape it off the surface. If you find an egg mass in an area where the bug hasn’t been detected, the department encourages taking a picture of it, noting the location, and report it to your state’s department of agriculture before killing it.
PennState Extension recommends scraping the egg mass into a bag or container of hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol, and then disposing of the bag or container. Masses scraped onto the ground can still hatch. When crushing the egg mass, make sure to evenly press and watch for it to burst open — a sign that the mass has been crushed properly.
Soon, spotted lanternflies that have hatched will enter their nymph stage, where they will be black with white spots. If you find the bug in this stage, and you’re in an area where the bug hasn’t been detected before, PennState recommends trying to collect it in a container of hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol to kill and preserve it. If you aren’t able to catch it, experts advise trying to a picture of it before reporting the sighting.
SLIDESHOW: Life phases of spotted lanternflies
The Department of Agriculture says that spotted lanternflies, if allowed to spread, “could seriously impact the country’s grape, orchard, and logging industries.”
The spotted lanternfly feasts off of fruit, ornamental, and woody trees, especially the tree of heaven, a fellow invasive species native to China, according to the USDA. Specifically, the spotted lanternfly feeds on sap from over 70 different plant species, PennState Extension explains. The damage left behind can cause the plant to stress, draining its health and potentially killing it.