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NY officials raise alarm over invasive Spotted Lanternfly

Spotted Lanternfly
Cornell Cooperative Extension Westchester County
Spotted Lanternfly

The Spotted Lanternfly is back in the headlines as officials warn the invasive pest has become a growing threat to Northeast agriculture.

In November 2017, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets confirmed that the Spotted Lanternfly had been found in Delaware County. Native to China and Vietnam, the Spotted Lanternfly was discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014 and now has a foothold in several Northeastern states. It feeds on over 70 plant species including grapes, hops and apples.

Chris Logue, The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Director for Plant Industry, led an online discussion as part of an effort to increase awareness, especially among people living in areas where vineyards are present.

"One Spotted Lanternfly in a vineyard is not going to inflict heavy damage, it's going to be a situation if you have a large population of them in a vineyard and a lot of feeding," Logue said. "And so again, I think for vineyard owners, being vigilant and being on top of treatments is going to be really important. The places in Pennsylvania where there was documented damage in vineyards, those were actually newly planted, one of them I should say, was a newly planted vineyard. And again, when you're just establishing a vineyard or a crop, you know, the plants are going to be a little bit more susceptible, in particular to that piercing sucking damage from the lanternfly’s mouthparts."

The insects, when fully matured, have a black head, grey wings, and red hind wings.

Logue says if you see a Spotted Lanternfly, take a picture of it, then kill it and file a report through the Department of Agriculture and Markets website.

"We do have a reporting tool on our website where folks can go in, they can put in their information, upload a picture, it loads into our survey system, it does allow us to parcel out those sightings and prioritize them for further inspection and survey," said Logue.

Brian Eshenaur, senior extension associate for invasive species with New York State Integrated Pest Management, says the insects can make it unpleasant for people who enjoy being outdoors.

"When they're feeding on the trees that they're feeding on the pipework of the tree, the vascular tissue, they're taking the fat out, they filter out what they like," said Eshenaur. "And then they exude honeydew, which is a sticky, watery substance that rains down below, and on that material, you can get a black mold that develops, and that's called sooty mold. And so this can be an annoyance if it's coating outdoor lawn furniture. Also, the honeydew is attractive to Yellow Jackets."

Logue notes that honeydew and sooty mold impair photosynthesis, and can actually predispose plants to feeding from other insects or from being more susceptible to other plant diseases. He adds recently-emerged bugs will quickly become adults and likely mate in September, followed by egg-laying through fall into early winter.

Logue says the biggest concern is the pest’s potential economic impact on New York’s $300 million wine and grape industry.

"The total economic impact of all invasive species in the US, exceeds $70 billion per year, " Logue said.

Eshenaur says there are emerging "natural enemies" of the Spotted Lanternfly.

"In the areas in the US where Spotted Lanternfly has been established since 2014, they're starting to see some of our native insects like our praying mantis, and some of our birds are starting to figure out that, you know, this is a food source and they're consuming those and there's some reports that the praying mantis population may even be increasing in those areas," said Eshenaur.

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources says an Spotted Lanternfly infestation was recently found in Springfield. The Department says cities like Springfield with large industrial areas are at especially high risk for Spotted Lanternfly introductions, since the bug can hitchhike on trucks and other methods of transportation that come from infested states.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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