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5 Invasive Bugs to Watch Out For in New Jersey

New Jersey’s five most problematic non-native insect species

A pest infestation, from bed bugs to rodents, can cause massive damage to your home and well-being.

However, invasive pests like the Spotted Lanternfly and Japanese Beetle can destroy local foliage, disrupt local ecosystems, and lead to the extinction of local plant life and bugs.

Fortunately, modern technology has allowed us to track invasive species and devise preventative measures to help slow their spread.

In the following article, we’ll take a look at New Jersey’s five most problematic non-native insect species, identifying their physical appearance, common behavior, reasons for being on this list, and what you can do to keep their populations to a minimum.

1. Spotted Lanternfly

The spotted lantern fly is likely a name you’ve heard before due in part to its unique, polka-dotted appearance and the devastating impact the species has on local, ecologically, and economically important plant varieties.

Native to parts of Asia, including China, Vietnam, and India, this plant-hopping pest uses its sharp, straw-like mouth parts to consume the bark and sap of nearly 70 plant species, causing serious health issues. Spotted lantern flies also produce honeydew that attracts pollinators that encourage mold and fungus growth.

These insects are easily recognizable by their medium-large 1-inch size, black bodies, transparent gray forewings, black spots, and bright red hind wings. Their egg sacs are typically flat, white masses that can be found on the side of trees.

Due to their devastating effect on agriculture, such as grape vines, fruit trees, black maples, walnut trees, and the tree of heaven, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture recommends destroying any insects or egg sacs that you may find by any means possible. Regularly inspect outdoor furniture, playground equipment, tools, and kids’ toys for egg sacks, and squish them, bag them, or spray them; but whatever you do, don’t leave them alone!

Ever since their first sighting in approximately 2012, spotted lantern fly populations in New Jersey have skyrocketed; though, with the help of dedicated pest services and citizens, we can help to keep the state SLF-free!

2. Japanese Beetle

As their name suggests, Japanese beetles are an invasive pest hailing from Japan. First discovered in New Jersey in 1916, these arthropod invaders have disastrously affected New Jersey’s leafy-green vegetation.

For instance, Japanese beetles tend to devour dry, leafy foliage, leaving behind only the veins for a unique, skeletal appearance. This pest also tends to feed in large quantities, forming swarms of insects that consume any green plant without prejudice.

For this reason, local governments recommend preventative control and home treatments to keep Japanese beetle damage to a minimum.

You can recognize Japanese Beetles by their iridescent green and copper colors and medium size, growing to approximately ½ inch. Pest control consists of localized pesticides such as neem and physical removal. Additionally, deceased beetles make an excellent repellent; placing containers of recently removed beetle carcasses near desirable plants will likely ward off future feedings.

3. Gypsy Moth

The gypsy moth is often considered one of New Jersey’s oldest invasive species, originally brought and released into the United States in 1868. This highly-destructive moth is responsible for damage to over 1 million acres of foliage, primarily feasting on hardwood trees. As a result, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture has dedicated funds and resources to eradicating the pest, though they’re still present in some capacity to this day.

Gypsy Moths are especially notable in their caterpillar stage, featuring distinctive hair-like setae across their bodies as well as blue/brick-red spots. In adult form, these moths feature either brown or white bodies, with males being considerably smaller than females (20-24mm and 30-35mm, respectively). Females also feature thin antennae, while males sport long, feather-like antennae.

Eradication is typically taken care of by governmental insecticide usage. However, if you spot a caterpillar, an adult moth, or their fuzzy egg-sacs, it’s recommended to dispose of them.

4. Asian Longhorned Beetle

Originally native to China and the Korean Peninsula, the Asian Longhorned Beetle is an extremely ruinous wood-boring insect, causing serious tree damage in 3 to 4 years and tree death in approximately 10 to 15. These large, destructive beetles burrow into tree bark to lay eggs, which then hatch and burrow deeper into the tree’s soft tissue, where it feeds for approximately two weeks. After this time, the beetle burrows deep into the tree’s woody tissue, where it develops into adulthood, emerging from a ¾-inch wide hole to mate and continue the cycle.

Asian longhorned beetles are distinct in appearance, featuring large 1.5-inch long black bodies with long banded antennae and several white spots. Their grubs are white in color and typically not observed due to their life cycle within the tree.

Unfortunately, the only tried and true method of eradicating Asian longhorn beetles is to cut down and destroy infected trees, preventing the beetles from infesting the surrounding forestry.

5. Emerald Ash Borer

Finally, we have a voracious beetle known for eviscerating the Ash tree population in the NorthEast. These invasive insects are thought to have been brought from their native Asian countries–including Japan, China, Korea, and Russia–hitching a ride on wooden packing materials. Since their introduction to the states, they’ve done considerable damage to Ash trees, prompting widespread removals and diligent observation.

Emerald ash borers are a jewel beetle, easily identified by their iridescent green bodies and small, ~8.5-mm length. In North America, they often feature a reddish upper abdomen below their traditional green wings.

Unlike Asian longhorn beetle infestations, emerald ash borer-infested trees can often recover from infestations by injecting a pesticide into the tree’s base, just above the soil line. The insecticide then travels naturally up through the tree trunk, where its ingestion kills larvae. The treatment is typically 85 to 95% effective.

Non-native, invasive pests can pose a massive threat to the ecology and economy of New Jersey; however, with your assistance and the help of ecologists and local tri-state exterminators, we can help to keep these troublesome insects out of the Garden State. If you happen to spot any of the aforementioned bugs, don’t hesitate to whip out the bug spray or get out your best stomping shoes!

If you’re having an issue with serious infestations, don’t hesitate to reach out to your qualified local pest experts below for tips, advice, or a rundown on our timely and effective services.

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