CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — In a globalized world, invasive species are inevitable no matter where you live, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work to prevent them from becoming established in local ecosystems. West Virginia is now home to many invasive insect species, but a few that are being monitored by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) and can still be stopped.
While the WVDA monitors many insects, entomologist Berry Crutchfield at the WVDA pest identification lab said these four bugs are of particular interest, and should be destroyed or reported to the WV Department of Agriculture if you come across them.
West Virginia citizens can send a picture of a suspected invasive species, a brief description of visible damage to trees/plants and the location or nearest town to email@example.com.
The Kudu Bug (depicted above) is a species native to Asia that feeds on soybeans, other legumes and kudzu, another invasive plant species, hence the name. The Kudzu Bug was first found in the U.S. in 2009 according to the USDA but was first sited in Kanawha County in 2022. Although it can reduce invasive Kudzu growth, it also reduces soybean crop yields, an important crop in Georgia, where it was first sited. As of May 1, Kanawha is the only county in West Virginia with confirmed sightings of the Kudzu Bug.
Be careful though, these bugs are known to produce a “foul” odor as well as stain surfaces and cause skin irritation when crushed. One way to remove these bugs if you find them near your home is to vacuum them up with a hose detachment and then submerge the bag in hot soapy water or kill them in the freezer.
The Spotted Lanternfly is also native to Asia and was first detected in West Virginia in 2019. It can currently be found in six different counties: Berkeley, Mineral, Jefferson, Hampshire, Morgan and Brooke.
These bugs feed on a variety of trees and fruits like grapes apples, hops and even walnuts. Adults and juveniles, called “nymphs,” are both pictured below. The USDA recommends you smash any Spotted Lanternflies or Lanternfly egg masses you come across, both of which can be seen on this wallet-sized identification printout.
Asian Long-horned Beetle
While this beetle has not yet been found in West Virginia, WVDA pest expert Berry Crutchfield it is a species the WVDA is keeping a close eye on as it poses a serious threat to hardwood trees in America. Though it is currently only found in Massachusetts, New York, Ohio and South Carolina, the USDA considers all states at risk from this bug.
These beetles will burrow through a wide variety of trees including elm, birch, maples, poplars, willows and many others. Signs of their presence include excessive sawdust at the bases of trees, pencil-sized, perfectly round tree exit holes and yellow or drooping leaves.
Imported Fire Ants
This is another species that has not yet made its way into West Virginia but has been spotted in nearby states like Virginia and North Carolina. These ants can bite multiple times and are particularly dangerous to young and small animals according to the USDA.
These ants pose a threat not just to plants like corn, soybeans and okra, but also to people and can displace other ant species that animals typically feed on. These ants respond aggressively to any disturbances to their nests and cause a burning sensation and itchy blisters, making them a particular risk to people working on farms or fields.
Remember, if you see any of the insects listed above, report where you saw them along with a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org.