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The Michigan DNR asks the public to help stop the spread of spotted lanternflies

winged insect on green leaf. grey wings with black dots
Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Rural Development and the State of Michigan
The DNR said the invasive insect can be mistaken for other beneficial species.

The invasive species has proliferated in Eastern states, but has yet to take hold here.

The Department of Natural Resources has launched a campaign urging Michiganders to “squish and report” the invasive spotted lanternfly, but to try to avoid killing a beneficial look-alike by mistake.

The DNR said it’s received over 100 reported sightings of the spotted lanternfly in Michigan — but all of them turned out to be cases of mistaken identity.

The insect native to east and southeast Asia was first spotted in the U.S. in 2014. It can damage stone fruit crops and grape vineyards, and its sticky excrement coats trees and causes mold. Eastern states have seen large populations of the invasive insect, but Michigan has only had one small infestation in Oakland County.

winged insect with wings open, red underbelly
Matthew Clara
Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources
The insect looks very different with its wings open. The DNR is urging residents to look for its egg masses as well, which look like dried chewing gum.

The DNR’s Joanne Foreman said peopleshould look closely at photos of the polka-dotted insect and its eggs as well as similar-looking species.

“We'd rather have you report it than not, but we also want to make sure that you are not squishing our healthy native bugs,” said Foreman.

”There's been a lot of butterflies that have been photographed for us, and a lot of moths and even some large flies like deer flies, so make sure you know what you're looking at, because we don't want to hurt any of those pretty butterflies or moths. They both have a really important part in our ecosystem.”

Adult lanternflies are about one inch long. Their folded wings are grey with black spots.

The bug is a very good hitchhiker. Michigan State University Professor of Entomology Deb McCullough said the insect lays its eggs during autumn months. Travelers should avoid bringing these eggs back to Michigan.

“Those egg masses can be laid on vehicles, semi-trucks, railroad cars, but also hard materials things like bricks and landscape boulders and trees, and of course things that people move around, often in an open bed of a truck,” she said.

Spotted lanternfly egg masses look like dried chewing gum. The DNR urges anyone who’s visited an Eastern state to look for egg masses on vehicles and outdoor equipment. After potential egg masses are photographed and reported, they can be scraped into a plastic bag with rubbing alcohol.