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Be on the lookout for invasive insects in Missouri this summer

A graphic showing each stage of the spotted lanternfly life cycle.
Missouri Department of Agriculture
A graphic showing each stage of the spotted lanternfly life cycle.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture is setting traps for spongy moths and monitoring for other pests throughout the season.

The spongy moth is an invasive species, currently on the East Coast that likes to feed on oak trees. Around this time each year, the Missouri Department of Agriculture sets traps to survey them. Spotted lanternflies, which have also invaded the East Coast, are both a nuisance and a threat to grape growers. Later this season, MDA will go looking for them on tree of heaven, another invasive species and favorite host of the insect.

The trap-setting process looks like this: The Department of Agriculture and the Missouri Department of Conservation, working together, basically survey the state by county. Each county has a grid system, which tells surveyors where to set traps (high traffic, high-risk urban centers tend to have more). The triangle-shaped traps they use are called delta traps, and the surveyors put a pheromone lure in them to attract male spongy moths. They'll check the traps in mid-summer, just after Independence Day, and then again in August. If they find a significant population, they'll start eradication efforts — but in the 45-odd years since they started the surveys, researchers haven't found a reproducing spongy moth population in Missouri.

State Entomologist Rosalee Knipp isn’t really worried about spongy moths – her team typically catches just three-to-five a year. But she is concerned about spotted lanternflies.

“Spotted lanternfly was found in Chicago last year, and since it really likes rail, it’s very possible that it could get transported into the state,” she said.

Knipp said to be on the lookout for spotted lanternflies if you’re out hiking or camping this summer. And if you’re traveling, be sure to check your vehicle for any weird growths — they might be egg masses.

You can report sightings to plantpest@mda.mo.gov. More information online.