Oct 5, 2015
Spotted lanternfly can be contained

Despite an expansion of a quarantined area this summer to another Berks County township in Pennsylvania, the manager of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s (PDA) entomology program remains confident the spread of the potentially damaging spotted lanternfly can be contained.

Spotted lanternfly is a new invasive pest discovered during the 2014 growing season at a Berks County specialty stone company that imports product from Asia. According to PDA, the pest attacks grapes, apples, pines and stone fruits. It often attaches to the bark of Tree of Heaven – sometimes referred to as Paradise Tree – an invasive species similar to sumac that can be found around parking lots or along tree lines.

Adults often cluster in groups and lay 30-50 eggs that adhere to flat surfaces including tree bark. Freshly laid egg masses have a gray, waxy, mud-like coating, while hatched eggs appear as brownish seedlike deposits in four to seven columns about an inch long. Trees attacked by the spotted lanternfly will show a gray or black trail of sap down the trunk, according to PDA.

The department is investigating the quarantined and surrounding areas to assess the spread and impact of the pest. Additional townships might be added to the quarantine.

In July, surveillance crews began monitoring Lehigh and Montgomery counties to ensure that the spotted lanternfly has not moved beyond the Berks County line. While there is no indication the pest has spread to beyond the quarantined areas, officials believe this is a “prudent, precautionary measure.”

“The cooperation from research partners, other agencies and especially the community has been overwhelming,” said Sven Spichiger, PDA’s entomology program manager. “It is difficult to eradicate any pest, but with the efforts of everyone involved to date we stand poised to achieve our goal. We have good surveillance and control methods tested before even one calendar year has passed, which is extremely fast. Volunteers and crews are eliminating large numbers of lanternflies every week, and our knowledge about the insect continues to increase.”

The additional quarantine covers Colebrookdale Township. District, Earl, Hereford, Pike, Rockland and Washington townships and the boroughs of Bally and Bechtelsville were already under quarantine.

“We are continuing surveillance efforts to track and eradicate this pest,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said in a news release. “Since the spotted lanternfly was first detected last fall, we have seen numbers decrease in those areas.”

The general quarantine restricts movement of any material or object that can spread the pest. This includes firewood or wood products, brush or yard waste, remodeling or construction materials and waste, packing material like boxes, grapevines for decorative purposes or as nursery stock and any outdoor household articles like lawnmowers, grills, tarps and any other equipment, trucks or vehicles not stored indoors.

Businesses in the general quarantine area need to obtain a certificate from PDA in order to move articles. Criminal and civil penalties of up to $20,000 and prison time can be imposed for violations.

“The population has not spread as rapidly as we expected, and it seems like areas where control work was done has impacted the population,” Spichiger said. “New areas discovered in the core zone have heavier populations. The recent detections are within the radius of infestation, just in new townships.”

Spichiger said spotted lanternfly still poses an imminent threat to agricultural interests in the region.

“The ability of the insect to proliferate and its demonstrated impact on grapes in Korea continue to make it a threat to Pennsylvania agriculture,” he said.

Spichiger credited federal sources for providing funds to help curb the invasive’s impact.

“Very few of the efforts brought to bear would have been possible without the federal assistance,” he said.  “Equally helpful have been the efforts of the volunteers and industries operating in the area. The scraping, banding and now active capture have definitely impacted the population of spotted lanternfly.

Spichiger said the risk of unintentional spread to new areas is always a concern, and “we ask the residents and businesses operating in the quarantine to remain vigilant.”

The spotted lanternfly, an inch-long black, red and white spotted pest, is native to China, India, Japan and Vietnam. It’s an invasive species in Korea, where it has attacked 25 plant species that also grow in Pennsylvania.

All Pennsylvanians are encouraged to watch for the spotted lanternfly, and PDA offered the following suggestions:

  • If you see eggs: Scrape them off the tree or smooth surface, double bag them and throw them in the garbage, or place the eggs in alcohol or hand sanitizer to kill them.
  • If you collect a specimen: Turn the adult specimen or egg mass in to the PDA’s Entomology Lab for verification. First, place the sample in alcohol or hand sanitizer in a leak-proof container.
  • If you take a photo: Submit photo of adults or egg masses to [email protected].
  • If you report a site: Call the Invasive Species report line at 866-253-7189 with details of the sighting and your contact information.

While Pennsylvanians can submit suspect eggs to the PDA headquarters in Harrisburg or its six regional offices, Penn State Extension offices are often a closer, quicker option.

To learn more, visit www.agriculture.state.pa.us and search for “spotted lanternfly.”

Gary Pullano





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