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Photo by Courtesty Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

(Harrisburg) — In just a few weeks, eggs from an invasive pest will start hatching in the midstate.

State agriculture officials say now is the time when people can have the greatest impact on the spotted lanternfly’s population.

The fly lays its eggs in masses that look like smears of mud on trees, vehicles, and outdoor furniture.

To prevent an infestation, people can scrape those egg masses off with a shovel or piece of cardboard and crush them. 

Shannon Powers, press secretary for the state Department of Agriculture, said the grown flies leave behind a sticky mess that causes mold and attracts stinging insects.

“It’s unpleasant, but also, it could be tremendously destructive to our economy and to our businesses in Pennsylvania,” she said.

The lanternfly destroys agricultural products such as hardwoods, apples, and hops–industries worth $18 billion. 

Its presence also threatens commerce with neighboring states, which could restrict what goods are transported across state lines. 

The spotted lanternfly has spread to 14 Pennsylvania counties, including Berks, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, and Schuylkill.

Those who spot lanternfly eggs should report it to Penn State Extension.