Leesburg Creates Tools For Residents to Report Invasive Lantern Flies

Leesburg, VA (September 25, 2023) – In reaction to the rising sightings of the Spotted Lantern Fly, an indigenous planthopper of Japan, South Korea, and the United States, the Department of Public Works has introduced an Invasive Species Locator Map.

Earl Hower, the Chair of the Tree Commission, reported that the Lantern Fly has been gradually infiltrating the mid-Atlantic states since its initial discovery in Pennsylvania in 2014. Recently, over the preceding two years, it’s been increasingly identified in Maryland, DC, and Northern Virginia.

The spotted lanternfly poses a substantial risk as an invasive insect species, causing considerable harm to economically crucial native plants and trees in Virginia, such as grapevines, hops, fruits and vegetables, and decorative trees.

Hower mentioned that the situation is aggravated by the Spotted Lantern Fly’s attraction to the Tree of Heaven, prevalent in the Leesburg area. The abundance and ubiquity of this tree serve as a consistent food source for the insect, facilitating their proliferation and territorial expansion.

“It’s actually a very nice-looking tree in the younger stages but it does create a lot of problems down the line,” expressed Hower. “Leesburg, and so many other urban areas, has a Tree of Heaven problem. Why is this related? The Spotted Lantern Fly, also from China, naturally and historically thrives and is dependent in some cases, on this tree.”

To counteract the spread, the Town has unveiled the map to allow inhabitants to log their observations in real time. It operates on a geographic information system that formulates, oversees, studies, and plots all the integrated data. In this context, users of the system can document the locations where the insect or Tree of Heaven are visible.

“The goal is to collect this information, so Town staff has a better idea of where the Tree of Heaven is located and how many insects are in the area,” LaFollette stated. “Once that information has been collected, we intend to use this information to work with our partners of Loudoun County and the Extension office, HOA’s, and VDOT to develop a plan on the best way to deal with this pest and invasive species.”

LaFollette and her team aim to gather the data throughout the autumn and will employ the winter season to formulate a suitable strategy to tackle the issue effectively. Meanwhile, inhabitants are requested to register their sightings via the online map available at www.leesburgva.gov/departments/public-works/urban-forestry.