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Spotted Lanternfly sightings put region on alert

AP Photo A spotted lanternfly can do damage to grape vineyards.

An unwelcome guest has put grape growers on alert.

On Friday, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets was asking residents in Western New York to be on the lookout for Spotted Lanternfly after a population was found in the Buffalo area this week. The Spotted Lanternfly is a destructive pest that feeds on more than 70 plant species, including tree-of-heaven, and plants and crops that are critical to New York’s agricultural economy, such as grapevine, apple trees, and hops. The invasive was first observed in New York State on Staten Island in August 2020, and since then the population has been reported in all New York City boroughs, Long Island, Port Jervis, Sloatsburg, Orangeburg, Ithaca, Binghamton, Middletown, Newburgh, Highland, and now in the Buffalo area.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “We are concerned about the significant number of adult Spotted Lanternfly that have been found in Buffalo, especially with its proximity to the Concord grape growing area in Western New York. Spotted Lanternfly can have a devastating impact on vineyards, as we’ve seen in neighboring states, so we need everyone’s help to be on the lookout for this invasive and to report it immediately.”

The Department’s Division of Plant Industry inspectors responded to reports of the insect in a residential area of Buffalo adjacent to an active rail line. As of Sept. 9, over 100 adults have been found. Agriculture and Markets staff will continue to survey the surrounding areas in the coming days. Although the population is significant, the area was surveyed in April of 2022 and no egg masses were found, and no old egg masses have been found during the current survey.

While surveys in the area are ongoing, the Department is asking for the public’s help in slowing down the spread of the pest in this area by reporting any sightings immediately to agriculture.ny.gov/reportSLF.

In addition to reporting, residents are asked to take pictures of the insect, egg masses, or infestation you see and, if possible, include something for size, such as a coin or ruler. If possible, collect the insect. Place in a bag and freeze, or in a jar with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. Note the location (street address and zip code, intersecting roads, landmarks, or GPS coordinates).

While these insects can jump and fly short distances, they spread primarily through human activity. SLF can lay their eggs on any number of surfaces, such as vehicles, stone, rusty metal, outdoor furniture, and firewood. Adult can hitch rides in vehicles, on any outdoor item, or cling to clothing or hats, and be easily transported into and throughout New York, so residents are being asked to be vigilant.

The public is also encouraged to thoroughly inspect vehicles, luggage and gear, and all outdoor items for egg masses and adult SLF. If SLF adults are found, residents should remove them and scrape off all egg masses.

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