Time is running out to more easily help eradicate a huge threat to New Jersey's peach and apple trees as well as many other trees and agricultural crops.

Every day, I walk around my yard and patio squishing little black bugs that look like big ticks with white spots on them. They can't fly, but are excellent hoppers. Sometimes it takes two or three times for a successful squish, but it's worth the effort.

This week, I noticed a new arrival: slightly larger, red bugs. It gave me an even greater sense of urgency.

The spotted lanternfly began emerging from egg clusters in the nymphal stage in May. They are now entering the next phase of development where they turn red. They still lack the ability to fly, but not for much longer.

In a few weeks, they will develop wings and take flight in search of food. They love peach trees, apple trees and hardwood varieties like red maple and black walnut. They will also feed on river birch and willow trees. In large swarms, they can kill the trees in a matter of days. They will also start laying eggs in the fall that will unleash a new swarm next spring.

Joe Zoltowski, director of the division of plant industry with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, urges New Jersey residents to smash as many as they can.

"You stand a better chance of getting more population reduction because they don't have that opportunity to go fly away," Zoltowski says.

As of February 2022, a spotted lanternfly infestation had been recorded in every New Jersey county except Cape May.

Thirteen counties — Burlington, Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Salem, Somerset, Union, and Warren — remain part of the state's "quarantine zone" for spotted lanternflies.

Residents in the zone are required to use a checklist before moving any of the articles listed here. The list features dozens of items, including bicycles, campers, firewood, fencing, lawnmowers, and sandboxes.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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