May 27, 2018Fruit nemesis spotted lanternfly takes aim on Ohio, Missouri
An invasive pest that was initially contained within Pennsylvania has spread to Delaware and Virginia, and insect experts worry the next stop will be Ohio.
Spotted lanternflies suck sap from fruit crops and trees, which can weaken them and contribute to their death. Native to China, the insect was first found in the United States in 2014 in Pennsylvania.
At this time, spotted lanternflies are still relatively far from the Ohio border. They have been found in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. However, they can be spread long distances by people who move infested material or items containing egg masses.
“The natural spread would take a long time, but it would be very easy to be moved through firewood or trees that are being relocated,” said Amy Stone, an educator with Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University.
If it arrives in Ohio, the spotted lanternfly has the potential to do serious damage to the grape, apple, hops and logging industries, Stone said.
The lanternfly’s preferred meal is from the bark of Ailanthus or tree of heaven, which is typically not intentionally planted but instead grows on abandoned property and along rivers and highways.
Compared to the spotted wing drosophila or the brown marmorated stink bug, which seize on fruit and vegetable crops, the spotted lanternfly has a more limited palate so it likely would not do as much damage, said Celeste Welty an OSU Extension entomologist.
“Everybody’s fear is any new invasive pest will be like those two. But it seems to me, it’s not as much of a threat,” Welty said.
And unlike the spotted wing drosophila and the brown marmorated stink bug, the lanternfly is easy to spot because the adult bug is about 1 inch long and, with its wings extended, about 2 inches wide, Welty said.
For now, all that can be done to stem the spread of lanterflies is to stay watchful for their presence and any damage they may inflict. On trees, they zero in on the bark, particularly at the base of the tree. Lanternflies can cause a plant to ooze or weep and have a fermented odor. They can also cause sooty mold or a buildup of sticky fluid on plants as well as on the ground beneath infested plants.
An app developed by the CFAES School of Environment and Natural Resources allows users to report invasive species if they suspect that they have come across them. The app, which is called the Great Lakes Early Detection Network, features details about invasive species that people should be on the lookout for.
If someone sees a lanternfly, he or she should contact the Ohio Department of Agriculture at 614-728-6201.
Missouri on guard
Spotted lanternfly has the potential to establish populations in Missouri, said University of Missouri Extension field crop entomologist Kevin Rice. It damages soybean, corn and hops, as well as fruit and ornamental trees. According to MU Extension viticulturist Dean Volenberg, it could have damaging effects on Missouri’s 1,700 acres of grapes, its primary host.
Adult lanternflies are active in June and July. Entomologists reported seeing the spotted lanternfly in Pennsylvania in 2014. It has appeared since then in Virginia, Delaware and New York.
The plant hopper likes to lay its eggs on smooth, metal surfaces such as those found on train cars, boats and tractor-trailers. Its honeydew secretions attract other pests. It leaves weeping wounds as it feeds.
The adult lanternfly’s forewing is gray with black spots. The wingtips are black blocks outlined in gray. It has distinctive bright orange-red and white underwings, but it appears less vibrant and may be difficult to see when its wings are not spread, Volenberg says.
It likes fall feeding on Ailanthus altissima, also known as tree of heaven, a medium-sized invasive tree with stout branches that spread to form an open, wide crown. Its flowers are showy and fragrant and it tolerates drought. The tree also enables the ailanthus webworm moth.
What to do if you spot lanternflies
• Do not kill it. The insect contains cantharidin, the same toxic chemical found in the blister beetle.
• Capture it if you can. Lanternflies are jumpers.
• Take a photograph of it. Email to [email protected](opens in new window).
• Collect a specimen and put it in a vial filled with alcohol to preserve it.
• Take it to your county extension center and note where you found it. GPS coordinates are helpful. The extension center will send it to Rice, who will track its spread in Missouri.
• Use caution when handling tree of heaven; its sap can cause headaches, nausea and possible heart problems, according to Penn State Extension.
Sign up for free pest alerts from MU Extension’s Integrated Pest Management program at ipm.missouri.edu/pestMonitoring(opens in new window).
– Alayna DeMartini, Miranda Lipton, Ohio State University
–Linda Geist, University of Missouri