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Joshua Beese, Conservation Dog Handler, is shown during a demonstration at the NY/NJ Trail Conference, in Mahwah. Wednesday, November 20, 2019 NorthJersey

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Invasive insects from other parts of the world threaten the balance of New Jersey's ecosystem. 

As non-native species, invasive insects do not have any natural predators in the area and if left unchecked can have a significant impact on the environment. Their damage costs the state $290 million in agricultural losses annually, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

Thousands of non-native species have been brought to the state over the years either intentionally or by accident.

"Many of these species are benign while others, such as agricultural crops, are highly beneficial," the DEP stated on its website. "However, a small percentage have caused severe damage to our environment and to our health."

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Here are five invasive species that have caused the most damage to the Garden State over the years: 

Spotted lanternfly

The spotted lanternfly, a colorful, Asian plant hopper, made its way to New Jersey in 2018 from Pennsylvania. It is known to feed on the bark, leaves and sap of more than 70 plant and tree species, including willows, maples, poplars, tulip poplars, birch and ash. Eight counties are currently under quarantine due to the lanternfly: Warren, Hunterdon, Mercer, Somerset, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, and Salem.

"We currently have 13 crews of two who are out searching for and scraping egg masses and will be treating areas when the spotted lanternflies begin hatching in early May," a New Jersey Department of Agriculture spokesperson said in a statement sent to NorthJersey.com. "We are enlisting the help of the state’s citizens to helps us eliminate this insect as much as possible, now through egg mass scrapings and later through treatments on their properties."

The lanternfly's feeding stresses plants and hurts their ability to heal and can kill the trees. 

The bug was first discovered in the U.S. in 2014. It has since spread to New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, New York, Connecticut and Ohio. The NJDA is researching natural predators for the lanternfly to control its population.

Emerald ash borer

This beetle has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees throughout the U.S. and Canada. It was first seen in New Jersey in Somerset County in May 2014. It has made its way to Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex and Warren counties since then.

The ash borer once caused Morris County to chop down 10,000 ash trees as a safety precaution. It's believed to have first come to New Jersey on wooden packing materials from China. 

Nine percent of New Jersey's forested areas, mostly in the northwestern part of the state, were threatened by the emerald ash borer. 

"The department has been releasing egg and larval biocontrol parasitoids against this insect in ash stands throughout the state since 2016 to help curb the spread of the emerald ash borer," the NJDA stated. 

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Khapra beetle

These beetles are native to India. They stow away in grain and seed.

"Previous U.S. detections of this tiny beetle have required massive, long-term and costly control and eradication efforts," the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated. 

They do better in hot weather but are survivors, resistant to many pesticides and able to go a long time without food. 

The khapra spoils much of stored grain and seed products where its found from its feeding, per the USDA. 

Longhorned tick

The first longhorned tick was found in New Jersey in 2017 but could have been in the state longer. 

Native to China, Korea and Japan, longhorned ticks are tiny and can infest a wide range of animals, from dogs and cats to livestock and wildlife. It is unknown how much of a threat it is to humans. One was found on a Bergen County girl in 2018

The tick has been confirmed to be in Bergen, Camden, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, and Union counties in New Jersey. This tick is unique because it is asexual and does not need a mate to reproduce.

Gypsy moth

The gypsy moth is one of the oldest invaders, released into the United States in Massachusetts in 1868. It made its way to New Jersey a half-century later and has been feeding on tree leaves since. More than a million acres of trees have been damaged by gypsy moths since 2007, prompting the state to spray insecticides from planes on wide swaths of forest.

New Jersey started a suppression program for the moth in the 1970s. The NJDA recommended 170 acres in the state for gypsy moth treatment in 2021, down from 4,500 acres in 2018 and more than 100,000 in 2008.

Gypsy moths threaten oak, maple, birch, beech, willow, and hickory trees. The larger caterpillars also have been known to feed on pine, spruce, hemlock, and many common ornamentals, per the NJDA.  

Joshua Jongsma is a breaking news editor for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to all the major news happening in North Jersey, subscribe here. To get breaking news directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter.

Email: jongsma@northjersey.com 

Twitter: @jongsmjo

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