RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Spotted Lanternflies, an invasive species that can cause extreme damage to trees, crops and vines, are headed to southern Virginia.

Currently, Virginia’s Spotted Lanternfly Quarantine includes Winchester city, along with the counties of Clarke, Frederick and Warren, according to the Virginia Farm Bureau.

A close-up of a Spotted Lanternfly with its wing spread which shows the spots and the red color of its hind wings. The Spotted Lanternfly is an invasive insect from parts of Asia, that has made it into the Mid Atlantic area of the United States. (Photo: Getty Images)

The VAFB said early next month, this quarantine zone will expand to the cities of Buena Vista, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Lynchburg, Manassas, Staunton and Waynesboro. It will also be expanded to Albemarle, Augusta, Carroll, Page, Prince William, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Wythe counties.

“Together, pesticide treatment and the Spotted Lanternfly Quarantine have slowed the spread of this invasive pest,” David Gianino said, the program manager for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Office of Plant Industry Services. “However, surveys conducted by VDACS indicate that spotted lanternfly populations have now become established in other cities and counties.”

According to Virginia Cooperative Extension agent Mark Sutphin, the species has been traced back to a cargo load of landscaping stone shipped from China to Pennsylvania in 2014. Since 2018, the lanternflies have been abundant in Frederick County.

Sutphin said spotted lanternflies assemble in large amounts and drink extensive amounts of sap, which drains resources from plants. They then release a sugary substance called honeydew that leads to the growth of black sooty mold and prevents the photosynthesis of understory leaves. This prevents plants’ growth.

“Beyond direct damage to crops, the lanternfly also poses a risk to any business reliant on import and export of goods between states, as other states consider quarantines to prevent the spread of the invasive species,” said Ben Rowe, VAFB district field services director.

These pests feed on over 100 different species of plants, including wine grapes, which will directly affect Virginians, according to the VAFB.

“The vines get stressed, which reduced hardness going into the winter, and can lead to complete death,” Sutphin said.

He said although quarantines and insecticides help stop the effect of this species, there is no way to completely stop their spread.

VDACS said that regulated items are required to be without the presence of spotted lanternflies of eggs before they are taken outside the designated quarantine area.