State officials have confirmed an invasive pest known to feed on a wide range of crops and trees has been found in West Virginia for the first time.
The West Virginia Department of Agriculture said in a press release released Wednesday that the Spotted Lanternfly was discovered in the Bunker Hill area of Berkeley County in late October.
The black, white and red winged planthopper is native to China and other Asian countries and likely hitched a ride on overseas cargo to the U.S. The agency said the invasive insect prefers to feed on Tree-of-Heaven trees as well as apples, walnuts, grapes and hardwood trees.
Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt said the agency is most concerned about orchards and wineries in the Eastern Panhandle. The agency said it will begin treatments to contain the insect in the spring.
"We have been surveying for this invasive pest for the past two years. We knew it was only a matter of time until the Spotted Lanternfly made it to our state," Leonhardt stated. "The next step is to ask for formal assistance from our federal and state partners to put together an action plan to combat this pest."
The agency said landowners should be on the lookout for masses of eggs, especially on land with multiple Tree-of-Heaven, which is a palm-tree looking plant that some say smells like peanut butter.