Appalachia on Lookout for New Invasive Species: “Spotted lanternfly”

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PHOTO: Spotted Lanternfly, courtesy West Virginia Department of Agriculture
PHOTO: Spotted Lanternfly, courtesy West Virginia Department of Agriculture

 

Multiple Appalachian states are asking their citizens to be on the lookout for a potential new invasive species to the region. The spotted lanternfly, a destructive, invasive plant hopper, has been confirmed in New Castle County, Delaware, and concerns are mounting that the insect could be making its way west into the mountains of Appalachia.

“Invasive species, like the emerald ash borer, have devastated our forests. Getting out in front of these pests is crucial to protecting one of West Virginia’s most valuable resources,” said WV Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt. “We are asking the citizens to keep their eyes open for this potential pest.”

“We are cautious at this point, but we need citizens to be aware of this pest. The lanternfly is clearly spreading closer to West Virginia’s border. We just want to be ready,” said WVDA Plant Industries Director Tim Brown.

The spotted lanternfly was first recognized in the United States northwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in September 2014.

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech, Spotted Lanternfly nymphs on Tree of Heaven. Photo by Eric R. Day.
Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech, Spotted Lanternfly nymphs
on Tree of Heaven. Photo by Eric R. Day.

Pennsylvania officials say the invasive specie poses a threat to the state’s grape, fruit tree and logging industries, fears that are echoed across the eastern United States.

The greatest risk of spread comes from people transporting materials containing egg masses laid on smooth bark, stone, and other vertical surfaces.

On November 1, 2014 the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture banned transport of items that could harbor it, like firewood, lawn mowers, outdoor chairs, trucks and RVs from seven municipalities. Given the presence of old egg masses the insect is estimated to have been in the area since at least 2012, having survived the 2013/14 winter’s unusual cold.

Researchers at Virginia Tech say the insects excrete large amounts of a sugar-rich fluid called “honeydew” which covers the stems and leaves of trees as well as the ground underneath infested plants. This fluid hastens the growth of sooty mold that can reduce photosynthesis, weaken the plant and cause eventual death. Blackened soil and even mold patches, appearing as a yellowish-white mat, may form at the base of the tree and often produce a vinegar smell. Honeydew secretion often attracts other insects such as yellow  jackets, hornets, bees, ants and flies.

Should a resident of Appalachia spot one of these insects, they are encouraged to contact their state’s department of natural resources or agriculture.

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