To help stem the spread of the much-feared spotted lanternfly, Pennsylvania officials are encouraging businesses that transport anything in and out of 13 quarantined counties to get free online training on the pest, and a resulting permit, said Shannon Powers, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Agriculture.
Powers said that’s a “pretty broad” segment of businesses that operate in the state.
The state began requiring the permits in May. As of Dec. 8, 1,285 companies had them. The state is now ramping up its efforts, and fines for noncompliance could start in about six months. Powers did not have an example of the fine structure and said it had not yet been determined how fines would be enforced. It’s possible that businesses that fail to train their employees will have their spotted lanternfly permits revoked, making it difficult for them to do business.
“There’s a significant danger to commerce in Pennsylvania because the insect is such a good hitchhiker. It hops onto anything,” Power said.
The spotted lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula, is native to China, India, and Vietnam. It was first discovered in 2014 in Berks County and has spread to other counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The pest has recently been spotted in Center City and shows no sign of stopping its spread. The insect has the potential to destroy crops such as grapes, hops, and hardwoods, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Quarantined counties include Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, and Schuylkill.
Businesses can get training through a self-paced online course designed by the Penn State Extension and the state Agriculture Department. Usually, an owner, manager, or supervisor takes the test, and the business will receive permits for company vehicles. The person who took the test must then train other employees.
The test teaches the importance of stopping the spotted lanternfly, as well as its life cycle and habits. It also offers education on the quarantine, how to find and destroy the creatures, and best practices.