WAYNE COUNTY—With colder temperatures settling in to stay, the breeding season for the invasive insect, the Spotted Lanternfly (SLF), is approaching full swing.

As egg masses continue to accumulate on nearly any flat surface available, travelers into and out of the 13-county quarantine zone should take extra precaution to ensure they don't return with unwanted hitchhikers.

The quarantine zone brushes Wayne County's southernmost border with the closest SLF specimens spotted in Monroe County.

To help forestall the spread, the Penn State Extension (PSE), the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommend businesses operating in or delivering to or from the quarantine zone take an online training course to learn how to comply with PDA regulations.

The training is available on the PSE website, www.extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly.

Even for casual motorists stopping in the quarantine zone, it is well advised to “Look before you leave,” stated Emelie Swackhamer, PSE Montgomery County Horticulture Expert.

Swackhamer presented the most up to date information on SLF earlier this month to a group of Wayne County Master Gardeners, foresters, and other ecologically minded individuals.

During the presentation, Swackhamer noted egg masses are the only SLF life stage which can outlast the winter.

Dropped in groups of 30-55 eggs per mass, SLF females can “Lay eggs on virtually any solid object,” said Swackhamer.

Should one find an egg mass on one's vehicle, it is advised to scrape the mass off with a stiff card or other thin, flat, rigid object, and drop them in rubbing alcohol to kill the developing larvae.

Additionally, “You can crush or smash the eggs,” said Swackhamer.

Containing egg masses is a crucial part of keeping the insects limited to the quarantine zone as they can only go a scant few miles of their own accord when fully grown, said Swackhamer.

With fall growing colder as time advances, she recommended firewood consumers be especially vigilant of where their supply originates.

“Don't move firewood around,” she said, reminding those present of the eruptive spread of the Emerald Ash Borer due to similar means. “Use the most local firewood you can to go camping.”

Another way to prevent further spread of SLF is to curtail the growth of the similarly invasive “Tree of Heaven.”

While the SLF dines on over 70 different plant species, researchers believe the Tree of Heaven plays a critical role in the species' reproduction.

Swackhamer explained PSE is in the process of experimenting with confined SLF specimens to see if they can reproduce on tree species other than Tree of Heaven.

Ag researchers have identified black walnut, hops, and sawtooth oak species to be similarly desirable, though not yet able to produce a full life-cycle on anything other than Tree of Heaven.

Swackhamer explained, “We did get them to transition all the way to adulthood, but we were not able to get them to mate and lay eggs, so become reproductively mature, on any of these hosts in this kind of study yet.”

Research continues, but for now, managing Tree of Heaven growth is a prime concern.

The plant exists in all states across the nation save for Montana, Wyoming, Hawaii, Vermont and Alaska, stated Kelley Stewart, Forest Specialist for the Wayne Conservation District.

Stewart noted the tree has yet to be spotted in Wayne County, but search efforts are still ongoing.

She stated tree growth is prominent in Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties but so far has not crossed east over the mountains.

That being said, Wayne County residents are encouraged to keep an eye out for Tree of Heaven and dispose of it if it is found.

The plant's lance-shaped leaflets are similar to those of a sumac, but are smooth around the edge, not serrated, said Stewart.

The seeds look like “a bundle of helicopters,” she added.

According to information from PSE, Tree of Heaven can be either male or female (dioecious) and can reproduce by their wind-dispersed seeds or by sending “root suckers” up to 50 feet from the parent tree.

Due to the root structure spreading, tree of heaven is difficult to fully remove, often requiring herbicides to neutralize it, said Swackhamer.

In regards to the SLF populations, Swackhamer stated at the moment, PSE, PDA and USDA are working to contain and control the insects' spread, as well as develop more tools to fight them.

Left unchecked, the bugs pose a threat to numerous Pennsylvania industries including beer, wine, produce and forestry as their infestations can decimate plant populations.

Should residents happen upon a specimen, they're asked to report the find to the SLF hotline, 1-888-4BAD-FLY (1-888-422-3359).

More information about the SLF and the Tree of Heaven is available from the PSE website, www.extension.psu.edu.