BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s not completely clear how spotted lanternflies first got to the United States, but New York State’s Department of Agriculture and Markets’ Division of Plant Industry has some ideas.

Chris Logue, the director of the department, says it could have been the result of egg masses on shipments to the U.S., noting that the invasive species of bugs “tend to be very good hitchhikers.”

Spotted lanternfly eggs can be moved long distances. They’re laid in the fall, going through winter before the bugs show themselves in the spring.

Typically in the northeast, they’re first seen emerging in May, but Logue says emergence appears to be a little earlier than usual this year after reports of the lanternfly in New York City came in last week. Early hatches could have happened elsewhere, too.

“Obviously New York City is a little bit warmer,” Logue said. “You also have, sort of, the urban heat sink effect, which again, probably influenced that earlier emergence, as well.”

Noting New York State’s large size, diverse landscape and microclimates, Logue says it can be “very hard to predict emergence in any one particular area at any given time.”

The spotted lanternfly, which is known to cause damage to crops, is a planthopper from Asia. Logue says it feeds on more than 70 different plant species.

With its piercing, sucking mouth part, the spotted lanternfly can cause direct feeding damage. New York, which Logue says ranks third in grape production in the U.S., could be severely impacted by the lanternfly’s way of living.

But the direct feeding damage is not the only concern.

“SLF (spotted lanternfly) also excretes large amounts of sticky ‘honeydew,’ which attracts sooty molds that interfere with plant photosynthesis, negatively affecting the growth and fruit yield of plants, devastating agriculture and impacting forest health,” the Department of Agriculture says.

Ever since it was first found in the U.S. in Pennsylvania in 2014, the spotted lanternfly has since been seen in multiple states, including North Carolina, Indiana and Michigan.

Its first sighting in New York took place on Staten Island in August 2020. Since then, it was found in the other boroughs of New York City, as well as 15 counties across other parts of the state, including Erie this past year. This sighting in West Seneca is believed to have been an isolated incident.

During an update given Wednesday afternoon, Logue did not say the bug was found in any other parts of Western New York since then.

Other states in the northeast where it’s been seen since 2014, besides New York, include New Jersey and Delaware. Current infestation locations in the northeast can be found at this link.

If this bug is seen in New York City, it should be killed immediately, per a 2021 notice from the New York State Department of Agriculture. But outside of that region, the state lists these steps:

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Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award, JANY Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.