Spotted Lanternfly poses risk for vineyards, hops, landscape
The New York State Departments of Agriculture and Markets and Environmental Conservation and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced recently that the Spotted Lanternfly has been found on Staten Island in New York.
WHAT IS IT?
The Spotted Lanternfly is an invasive insect that has spread throughout Pennsylvania since its discovery in Berks County in 2014. They are indigenous to parts of northern China, Taiwan and Vietnam, but have invaded other countries such as Japan and South Korea, along with now the United States.
Adults are about an inch long and a half-inch wide.
“The forewing is grey with black spots and the wings tips are reticulated black blocks outlined in grey. The hind wings have contrasting patches of red and black with a white band,” the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture wrote. “The legs and head are black; the abdomen is yellow with broad black bands. Immature stages are black with white spots, and develop red patches as they grow.”
WHY ARE THEY BAD?
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the Spotted Lanternfly causes serious damage in trees including oozing sap, wilting, leaf curling and tree dieback. In addition to tree damage, when the flies feed, they excrete a sugary substance, called honeydew, that encourages the growth of black sooty mold. This mold is harmless to people, but it causes damage to plants.
“The Spotted Lanternfly does not bite or sting and is not a threat to people or pets. Large numbers of SLF, while not dangerous to humans or animals, can create a mess when they feed by excreting honeydew on surfaces in backyards, parks, on cars and places where people are active,” said Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, an entomologist whose work focuses on integrated pest management. “Sugary honeydew attracts ants and yellowjackets and is a base for the growth of unsightly sooty mold.”
In counties infested and quarantined for this bug, residents have reported hundreds that affect their quality of life and ability to enjoy the outdoors during the spring and summer months. They will cover trees, swarm in the air and their honeydew can coat decks and outside toys.
In addition to damaging trees and affecting quality of life, the Spotted Lanternfly is a threat to agriculture industries. They threaten billions of economic impact and hundreds of thousands of jobs for those in the grapes, apple, hops,and hardwood industries.
The invasive insects pose a significant threat to New York’s agricultural and forest health, according to the New York State Department of Conservation.
“Adults and nymphs use their sucking mouthparts to feed on the sap of more than 70 plant species. This feeding by sometimes thousands of them stresses plants, making them vulnerable to disease and attacks from other insects,” the state DEC said on its website “SLF also excrete large amounts of sticky ‘honeydew,’ which attracts sooty molds that interfere with plant photosynthesis, negatively affecting the growth and fruit yield of plants. New York’s annual yield of apples and grapes, with a combined value of $358.4 million, could be impacted if SLF enters New York. The full extent of economic damage this insect could cause is unknown at this time.”
ARE THEY LOCAL?
The sighting in Staten Island may not mean much to Western New York for now, but if they eventually come into the area, it could be harmful to local grape farmers and other agriculture. Sightings have also been reported in Delaware, Albany, Yates, Westchester, Suffolk, New York, Kings, Monroe, Chemung, Erie, Ontario, Ulster, Nassau, Sullivan, and Orange counties since 2017.
According to the state DEC, Spotted Lanternflies can jump and fly short distances, so they spread primarily through human activity. They often hitch rides to new areas when they lay their eggs on vehicles, firewood, outdoor furniture, stone and other transported goods and are inadvertently spread to new areas.
“The Spotted Lanternfly can be a nuisance in high numbers, and they can cause damage to some plants. In New York state we are especially concerned about our vineyards since they like to feed on grapevines,” said Brian Eshenaur, plant pathologist and senior extension associate with the New York State Integrated Pest Management program. “The Spotted Lanternfly may cause significant damage to vineyards and hop yards. In addition, the increased insecticide treatments necessary to manage this pest drives up costs.”
The New York State Integrated Pest Management program at Cornell University has been monitoring for the Spotted Lanternfly since its first occurrence in Pennsylvania in 2014. They have been developing educational programs and materials for farmers and citizens for the last five years, working closely with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets as well as universities and states where they are already problematic.
“The Spotted Lanternfly can also feed heavily on common tree species, such as black walnut and maples, and may cause branch dieback,” Eshenaur said. “Indirectly, nursery crops, Christmas trees and forest products could be negatively impacted if quarantines are established for a county in which they are being produced.”
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
“Residents will want to be extra vigilant watching for this invasive insect. Individual and commercial travelers alike should be aware that there’s the potential to spread this insect to new areas without knowing it,” Gangloff-Kaufmann said. “Adult Spotted Lanternflies can end up in vehicles and the egg masses can be laid on virtually anything. It’s important to inspect anything that you load into your vehicle.”
Infestation signs people should look out for include sap oozing or weeping from tiny open wounds on tree trunks, which appear wet and may give off fermented odors, one-inch-long egg masses that are brownish-gray, waxy and mud-like when new, old egg masses which are brown and scaly, and massive honeydew build-up under plants, sometimes with black sooty mold.
People should also inspect outdoor items such as firewood, vehicles and furniture for egg masses. Those who come across a Spotted Lanternfly are asked to report them. The state DEC advises people to take pictures of the insect, egg masses or infestation signs and to include something for scale such as a coin or ruler. They should email the pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org and note the location or fill out a reporting form.