NORFOLK, Va. — Over the weekend, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation took to Facebook to warn people about a wild-looking bug called the spotted lanternfly.
"If you see one of these, KILL IT... seriously," the environmental group wrote.
The flying, spotted bug is originally from Asia, and is considered an invasive species on the East Coast. They don't hurt people, but can do major damage to plants.
"The spotted lanternfly feeds on plants by sucking out the sap from leaves, stems or trunks," CBF wrote. "It sucks in more sap than it can handle and excretes most of it. That excretion, called 'honeydew,' can grow mold or attract other insects, further damaging the tree."
They do have specific trees they favor, "Tree of Heaven," but these pests also like to munch on oak, pine, poplar, maple and willow trees, and a variety of other fruit and nut trees. You can get a list of their common food sources here.
The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said the bugs first turned up in Pennsylvania in 2014. They've since spread to 10 other states: Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.
A Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) map shows that these bugs have been found in Northern Virginia and in spots along the Blue Ridge Mountains. Of the 22 total affected counties, 18 first reported a spotted lanternfly in 2022.
If you see this bug anywhere in Virginia, VDACS wants you to kill it, and also report it, so experts can keep track of the invasion.
Report a sighting by emailing email@example.com or calling VDACS at 804-786-3515.