Pest photos courtesy
Pennsylvania
Department
of Agriculture

The spotted lanternfly is the latest stowaway to bug tree growers throughout the eastern U.S. This native of China, India and Vietnam is threatening fruit, ornamental and shade trees.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is treating the problem seriously, awarding $17.5 million in emergency funding to halt its spread.

The funds will be shared between USDA-APHIS efforts to manage the expanding perimeter and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture efforts to manage the epicenter.

The pest, first identified in Berks County in 2014, has spread throughout southeastern Pennsylvania into New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and – just this February –Virginia.

“We’ve seen a dramatic expansion in the range of this pest over the last year and we need to take decisive action to prevent the spotted lanternfly from spreading throughout Pennsylvania and into neighboring states,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue says.

The spotted lanternfly is noted for its distinctive and colorful wings. The adult is an inch-long black, red and white spotted insect native to Southeast Asia. Since it was first identified in 2014, it has spread to 13 southeastern Pennsylvania counties. Quarantines have been established in those counties to prevent the movement of spotted lanternflies at any stage of their life cycle.

The invasive insect threatens to destroy $18 billion worth of agricultural commodities produced in the state, such as apples, grapes and hardwoods, which would be devastating for producers and businesses. Further, if the state cannot contain or eradicate the pest, it could jeopardize exports of products to other states and countries that want to prevent the pest from establishing a presence.

The emergency funding, which was made available through existing Commodity Credit Corporation balances, will be used for a two-pronged approach to contain the threat. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will monitor and control the outside of the infestation area to stop the insect from spreading while the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will work within the core infestation area to reduce lanternfly populations.

In addition to emergency activities in Pennsylvania, APHIS is planning to use existing resources to conduct surveys, and control measures if necessary, in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Virginia. *

In addition to the federal funding, Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf proposed nearly $1.6 million in dedicated funding to combat the pest as part of his fiscal year 2018-19 budget plan.

“For more than three years, we have been trying to contain — if not eradicate — the spotted lanternfly in Pennsylvania,” says State Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.

Traditional sticky bands (top) and the BugBarrier Tree Band (bottom)

There are several ways experts have tried to fight the insect in Pennsylvania. There are insecticides, which can be used both on the pests themselves and on the trees. A second method is tree banding, or outfitting a tree with a band of sticky tape that contains and kills young spotted lanternflies. Penn State Extension's recommended treatment for reducing the population includes installing sticky bands from mid-May to the end of August to trap lanternfly nymphs. The BugBarrier tree band features a dense, flexible fiber and a polyester film with a thin coating of adhesive, which works together to prevent pest passage into the canopy. Researchers have also created “trap trees” by eliminating all but one or two trees of heaven — an invasive species the bugs prefer — and treating the remaining trees with insecticide.

For more: bit.ly/spotted lanternfly