If not contained, the spotted lanternfly potentially could drain Pennsylvania's economy of at least $324 million annually and cause the loss of about 2,800 jobs, according to a study carried out by economists in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.
According to the researchers, under a worst-case scenario, in which damage reaches the maximum projected by crop-production and forestry experts, these losses could increase to $554 million annually and almost 5,000 jobs.
The report, the first to estimate the potential financial ramifications of the spotted lanternfly — an insect that has an insatiable appetite for the sap of fruit, ornamental and woody plants — also places current economic damages due to the pest at $50.1 million per year with a loss of 484 jobs in the southeastern part of the state.
"Even if the worst-case scenario doesn't come to pass, the spotted lanternfly already has inflicted millions of dollars in damage to our state's agriculture and forestry industries," said Jayson Harper, professor of agricultural economics and director of Penn State's Fruit Research and Extension Center.
"Our findings demonstrate that the vigorous response by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Penn State and industry stakeholders to limit the spread of spotted lanternfly is clearly warranted — our economy depends on it."
Native to Asia, the spotted lanternfly first was discovered in the U.S. in Berks County in 2014 and has spread since to Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia and Schuylkill counties, all of which are under a state-imposed quarantine.