Good “luck” charm: Man’s best friend becomes latest weapon to detect spotted lanternflies in Pa.

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — There is a “be on the lookout” warning for the Spotted Lanternfly. The invasive plant hopper is on the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s “Most Wanted” list.

All Pennsylvanians are called to kill the destructive bug and its egg masses that have spread to 26 counties in Pennsylvania, including the Midstate.

“It’s harmful to some crops that are really important to Pennsylvania vineyards. Grapes are one of the big ones, our hardwood industry, which is top in the nation, we lead the nation in hardwood export,” said Shane Phillips, a compliance enforcement inspector.

Now, there is a weapon in Dauphin County to detect the pest, and Pennsylvania is the only one in the nation to have her.

“She sure is first of her kind,” Phillips said.

Lucky, a German Shepherd, works for the Department of Agriculture alongside her handler, Shane Phillips.

“Lucky is the only one of her kind in the country,” Phillips said. “We search for Spotted Lanternfly eggs on potential vehicles or products or different things that could be leaving the Spotted Lanternfly quarantine,” which is a zone that includes the entire Midstate.

The pair inspects permitted businesses to prevent Spotted Lanternfly eggs from rolling or flying in and out of Pennsylvania.

Penn Vet Working Dog Center and Pinpoint K9 trained Lucky.

“They showed at Penn Vet that dogs could even detect Spotted Lanternfly eggs, we weren’t sure at that point and they were successful. Lucky’s nose is pretty special,” Phillips explained. “Humans have about six million scent receptors in our noses that are able to smell. Lucky has about 225 million or so of those sent receptors in her nose, and the part of her brain that analyzes those smells is about 40-times bigger than a human.”

Lucky is one super-sniffing asset.

“Some of the work she can do in a pretty quick time would take me and my team a whole all day, the power of her nose is incredible,” Phillips said.

Also incredible? Lucky’s work ethic.

“When she finds eggs, she gets this ball, and you can see how excited she is for it now,” Phillips said.

The pandemic halted Lucky’s public demonstrations, but check the Pa. Agriculture page for when they will be rescheduled. There is also information on how to help Lucky in her quest to get rid of the Spotted Lanternfly.

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