The Spotted Lanterfly - Invasive Species In Connecticut

It may look like an exotic moth but don't be fooled! With its pale, pinkish grey wings, black dots and a scarlet undercoat, the spotted lanternfly is a beautiful insect. If you see one squish it, destroy it, do what ever you have to do to get rid of this damaging pest. 

Its an invasive insect with a strong, rapacious appetite for apple trees, plum trees and grapevines.  So if you see one federal officials and agriculture departments from states all along the eastern seaboard say to be ruthless, squash it and destroy its babies before they take over your county! 

Now that's a really strong message and it may seem harsh but consider this: they lay dozens of eggs; they leave oozing sap on trees, vines and crops; and when they feed, they excrete a sweet substance that leads to the growth of black mold!!

Though they are harmless to humans and animals, unlike the murder hornets, they can destroy and devastate crops like vineyards. 

Example of their potential cost, a study was done by researchers at Pen State College of Agriculture, warned that the spotted lanternfly had the potential to cost Pennsylvania's economy $325 million a year and 2800 jobs. 

Lanternflies will cover trees by the hundreds and swarm in the air. They secrete a sweet substance known as honeydew. This substance will coat play-grounds and decks. "They are called bad bugs for a reason," Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture said. 

In New Jersey they named the eradication campaign "Stomp It Out." In Ohio, residents were told to scrape off any lanternfly eggs they see on trees, double bag the and throw them away. Another suggestion was to immerse them in hand sanitizer or alcohol.

In September, adults will feed voraciously so they can reproduce and lay eggs in October and November, said Julie Urban, an evolutionary biologist in the Penn State Entomology Department. She has studied lantern flies for two decades. 

She said she heard joggers in Pennsylvania parks scream when insects land on them, I can't blame them I would too!  In the vineyard, a yoga class was rattled when swarms of lanternflies began hitting them, gross if you ask me!

Urban has collected pictures from homeowners who found their decks blackened with the sooty mold. They are so enraging, she said, she saw a small girl take off her flip-flop and beat the insects at a pagoda that had become infested. "It was horrible," she said.

At Vynecrest Vineyards & Winery in Breinigsville, Pennsylvania, one partner at the vineyard said he had no qualms about smashing the insects. They have been fighting the infestation of the grapevines for 4 years, he adds "There is nothing cute about them."  In the past 4 years lanternflies have killed off an acre or two of grapevines each year. That's anywhere from 4 to 8 acres. The problem being that pesticides don't do much to keep them away, the owner states, "A day or two later they are back." They do die easily when heat or frost arrives. 

The best, and most aggressive way to stop their spread is to remove one of their favorite food sources. An invasive plant called the Tree of Heaven.  But the lanternflies best defense is their ability to reproduce. They do breed in huge numbers, laying eggs, 30 to 50 at any time, anywhere, such as on trees, trucks, tops of railroad cars and take 8 months to hatch. This is how they spread so easily, human travel.  

The lanternfly is not a fly but is a plant hopper.  It first was seen in the United States in September 2014, most likely form Asia, Urban said.  Other states are worried about infestations, as they should be. Dead lanternflies were found in cargo planes from Allentown, Pennsylvania, and in Virginia lanternflies had laid their eggs on railway tracks used by local and Amtrak trains.

So if you see them in your yard, park or at your local vineyard or orchard, let the proper authorities know and squish and squash them!! Also please report any sightings to the Connecticut DEEP.

The following is from Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection web page;

The SLF likely arrived in North America hidden on goods imported from Asia. The first detection of the spotted lanternfly in the United States was in Berks County, Pennsylvania in September 2014. SLF has now spread throughout southeastern PA with established populations in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. USDA APHIS has not placed a federal quarantine in any state as of yet, but warns that the spotted lanternfly could survive year-round on the farmlands, forests or urban areas of most states in the northeast part of the country. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania updated an Order of Quarantine and Treatment as of March 2020 and the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets has established external quarantines on areas with infestation. Single SLF adults have been found in New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut; however no infestations have been reported in these states as of August 2020.

Why the SLF Is of Such Concern to Connecticut - The SLF is an insect with a large and diverse host range. It feeds on about 60 genera of the trees and plants found in North America. In Connecticut, approximately 47% of the forest trees are considered as potentially susceptible to the SLF (See Tree List). Many of the fruit trees grown in Connecticut, such as apples, cherries, and peaches, are also considered to be vulnerable. Even if the insect does not kill the trees, it could destroy the value of the fruit. Grapes are likewise vulnerable. The impact on the agricultural industry of Connecticut could be devastating.

The following are among the genera at risk from SLF: Almond, Apples, Apricots, Beech, Black and paper birch, Black gum, Cherry trees and cheeries, Dogwood, Elm, Grapes, Hops, Linden, Maple, Nectarines, Oak, Peaches, Pignut and shagbark hickory, Pine, Plums, Poplar, Sassafras, Serviceberry, Sycamore, Tulip poplar, Walnut, White ash and Willow.

Don't forget to check out The North Haven Garden Club on Facebook for lots of useful and entertaining information and pictures of all our club does in the great Town of North Haven and like our page!!  See our Facebook page for more images of the Spotted Lanternfly.

North Haven Garden Club is a member of The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut Inc., New England Garden Clubs Inc., and The National Garden Clubs Inc.

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