EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ State environmental officials are urging Rhode Islanders to be on high alert for the spotted lanternfly, an invasive species known for damaging trees, vines and crops.
Researchers from the University of Rhode Island have been tracking this threat over the past few weeks and are worried these pests could become a real problem locally.
Native to Asia, the spotted lanternfly feeds on maple, walnut and willow trees and crops such as grapes, apples and hops.
The spotted lanternfly has previously been found in both Connecticut and Massachusetts, but so far, none have made their way into Rhode Island.
Lisa Tewksbury, an entomologist at the URI Biocontrol Lab, tells 12 News their eggs often latch onto trees but can also be found in places like picnic tables, wood pallets, and firewood.
The baby spotted lanternfly, also called a nymph, starts off as black with white spots and eventually turns a scarlet hue during its late stages.
Adults are about an inch long and boast spotted wings with bright scarlet underwings and yellow marks on its abdomen.
Tewksbury and her fellow researchers at URI are asking Rhode Islanders to periodically check for spotted lanternflies and take a photo or collect a specimen if they’re found. Photos can be sent to Tewksbury at firstname.lastname@example.org.