If you see a spotted lanternfly, kill it. That’s the message from Fairfax County Park officials.
The beautiful bug comes from Asia and is invasive to the area. Their voracious appetite makes them a major threat to plants and local wineries.
Spotted lanternflies especially love to eat one particular plant, according to experts. It’s called ailanthus altissima, or tree-of-heaven. The fast-growing trees are themselves an invasive species and are the preferred hosts for the bugs.
In order to crackdown on the number of spotted lanternflies in Virginia, Fairfax County officials are working to remove the trees from Blake Lane Park.
“By removing the tree-of-heaven, we’re potentially reducing the spread of the spotted lantern fly into new areas,” said Patricia Greenberg, an ecologist with Fairfax County.
Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation has given a $20,000 grant to help the Fairfax County Park Foundation remove the trees and plant new seedlings in their place.
That grant money is important, Greenberg said, because when you remove a tree-of-heaven “if you do not treat it with herbicide immediately, that tree sends out a chemical response into the root system” which leads to seedlings to shoot up from that original tree.
“Without having this awesome grant from Dominion Power to help us managing this park to reforest this area,” Greenberg said, “we would not have been able to remove these trees, because some of them are so large we would not have been able to treat them immediately to get them out of the park.”
Fairfax Park Authority also recommends home owners get rid of any tree-of-heaven from their yard. The thing to look for, according to Greenberg, is the distinctive, smooth and pale grey bark. If you find one in your yard, Greenberg said, you should report it to Fairfax County Urban Forest Management.