New Jersey's latest unwanted guest — the spotted lanternfly — has put its feet up on the table and just won't leave.
The tree-destroying bug has been spotted everywhere this summer from the sands of the Jersey Shore to the mountains of the Delaware Water Gap and all suburbs and cities in between, so much so that an inundated Department of Agriculture is kindly asking residents not to send in any more reports.
Teams of workers are spread throughout the state spraying insecticides to combat the invasive pest before it makes a serious dent in the state's $1 billion agriculture industry. But researchers say the bugs have gained a significant foothold in the Northeast and may be impossible to eradicate.
Here's a refresher on what they are, what they harm and how best to deal with them.
Why is the spotted lanternfly harmful?
Think of a spotted lanternfly as a mosquito, except instead of sucking blood out of a person, they suck the sap out of at least 70 different types of plants and trees. And trees can't swat them away.
But there is also a secondary punch that lanternflies hit trees with. The bugs excrete sugary honeydew, which is like catnip for other insects. It attracts wasps and ants, which also feed on the tree.
There has been no significant damage at New Jersey farms last year and so far this year, according to the state Agriculture Department. But lanternflies appear to play the long game. While they often don't destroy a tree right away, they wear it down with season after season of infestation.
They are also great plant hoppers, and as adults use their wings to glide from target to target. Steady winds can spread them for miles in a short period of time.
What are lanternflies attracted to?
Aside from each other, lanternflies are attracted to the tree of heaven — a fast-growing, tough, invasive species that gained notoriety in the 1943 novel "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" as a tree that survived harsh conditions.
Trees of heaven can be found throughout New Jersey, and with them the spotted lanternfly. The Palisades cliffs are loaded with these trees, which is a reason why so many nearby communities are inundated with the bug.
Spotted lanternflies also feast on fruit and hardwood trees, making them a threat to the agriculture and lumber industries. They are particularly attracted to grapevines, along with maple trees, poplars, birch and ash.
Are spotted lanternflies harmful to humans?
Other than having no sense of boundaries, the spotted lanternfly is not harmful to humans.
It has no stinger. It does not bite. It's not poisonous.
But they don't appear to be the smartest creatures in the kingdom and will fly right onto people, most of whom summarily smash them. s
What do you do when you find a spotted lanternfly?
Thick-soled shoes and flip-flops may well be your best weapons this summer.
But stomping the bug will probably not make a huge dent in the population. And anyone who has tried this knows the lanternfly is very good at jumping away at the last second as the foot comes crashing down.
There are plenty of readily available insecticides that are being marketed to kill lanternflies.
Less toxic concoctions like vinegar, oils or dish soap don't seem to kill the bugs on contact, as some websites claim. It does chase them away or sometimes stuns them, making them more susceptible to being stomped.
How did the spotted lanternfly get to us?
The lanternfly is native to Asia, and like most invasive pests, it is believed to have come to the U.S. via trade.
Egg masses were found on a stone shipment from China that arrived in 2012. Two years later, the first lanternflies were found in Berks County in eastern Pennsylvania. They spread to 13 counties within a few years despite restrictions on the movement of plants, trees and other items that the bug could hitchhike on.
The first lanternfly in New Jersey was discovered in June 2018 on its preferred host — a tree of heaven — in Warren County.
How do you get rid of spotted lanternflies for good?
Scraping egg masses during the late fall, winter and early spring could help cull the population. An egg mass has 30 to 50 eggs.
The problem is that lanternflies will lay their eggs on any hard surface And that means they're sometimes hard to spot — like the underside of a porch. Or they're hard to reach — like the top of a tree.
Tree experts suggest removing all trees of heaven from properties, since it is the lanternfly's favorite thing to feast upon. But tree removal is expensive, and some homeowners just go with spraying insecticides to keep them away.
What is the spotted lanternfly's natural predator? What eats them?
The problem with the spotted lanternfly is that it doesn't have an obvious natural predator, in the way bats prey on mosquitoes, which is one of the reasons they multiply so rapidly.
But researchers at Penn State have been compiling photos from the public of lanternflies being eaten by owls, songbirds, spiders, praying mantises and other animals.
What happens next?
The vast majority of spotted lanternflies have molted into adults by early August and will begin mating this month. Females will lay eggs from September through November.
This generation of lanternflies will die out by early winter, and the next awaits us in May when hatching begins.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Spotted lanternfly NJ: Answering all your questions