UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (WTAJ) — Spotted lantern flies have been destroying fruit trees and vineyards in the Philadelphia area.

It’s spread to 14 PA counties and biologists are worried the insects are moving west.

With over 100 acres of fruit, Jason Coopey, Co-Owner of Way Fruit Farm, says he’s concerned about the threat of spotted lantern flies affecting his business.

Coopey grows grapes and apples, the spotted lantern fly’s favorite treats.
The closest spotted lanternflies may have been seen in Harrisburg , but coppey says there’s still reason to be alert.

“These things have wings and anything with wings travel very quickly,” Jason Coopey, Co-Owner for Way Fruit Farm, said. “The Emerald Ash Borer is a prime example of of what happened with these latest invasive species. There’s not an Ash tree alive right now, on this farm. You know all of them have died from the Emerald ash borer.”

Wednesday, Penn State announced they’re receiving a $7.3 million dollar federal grant for spotted lanternfly research.

Julie Urban, an Entomologist at Penn State says, right now the university and seven other schools in the Northeast are learning more about the insect and ways to stop them, like unleashing the bug’s predator, a wasp from it’s native habitat in China.

“We want to make sure that is we release a foreign insect here, it’s not going to hurt our native insects,” Urban, said.

She says the insect loves urban areas and certain trees, like red maples. That’s two things State College has going against it.

Coopey says he expects spotted lanternflies to be in Central PA soon, but says this grant and research will help us prepare.

“I do like the fact that they are getting proactive on this and that’s allowing for us to not be behind whenever it does occur,” Coopey, said.

Professor Urban says they expect the federal grant money to kick in any day now.