HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Chesapeake Bay Foundation out of Harrisburg is working with students to help get rid of Pennsylvania’s latest invasive insect.
The so-called “Squish Squad” is gathering youth throughout the Commonwealth to contain and eradicate the Spotted Lanternfly. The pesky bug has been wreaking havoc throughout the state since 2014, damaging trees, vines and other plants.
The Pa. Department of Agriculture has put 34 counties under quarantine so residents and businesses can learn how to stop the spread of the insect.
The department says if this remains uncontrolled, they estimate the Spotted Lanternfly can cost the state up to $324 million annually, and 2,800 jobs. They say this group of bug killers will help their efforts tremendously.
“We’re pleased to see youth putting their creativity and enthusiasm toward protecting our state’s vital economic and natural resources,” Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. “Young people are the bright future of agriculture, and we need what they bring to the table. I’m excited to see what the Squish Squad dreams up to help stomp out Spotted Lanternflies.”
The Squish Squad will not only be setting out to stomp on the pests but also advocate and create awareness to show why it’s important to care about Pa. agriculture, one of the state’s hottest commodities.
“There are a lot of students in parts of Pennsylvania’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed that are not in the quarantine, so it’s important to raise awareness about the importance of making sure that if members of their community see a Spotted Lanternfly, they know what it is, what to do, who to contact and why it is bad for Pennsylvania agriculture,” Kassie Fenn, CBF’s Student Leadership and Education Manager in Pennsylvania said.
The Squish Squad began its adventure earlier this summer in Lancaster County, where students found the bug in earlier stages of life.
They will continue to partner with county conservation districts and nature preserves. They’ll also hold workshops on making Spotted Lanternfly traps at home.
“The spotted lanternflies aren’t particularly picky, so you are going to find them on native species that we are planting to serve as streambank support and runoff filters,” Fenn said. “They are going to spread unchecked unless we do something about it.”
The Squad welcomes any and all high school students interested in keeping Pa.