The spotted lanternfly – an invasive planthopper native to China, India and Vietnam – has gained a foothold in the United States in eastern Pennsylvania and nearby areas of New Jersey and Vietnam. It has the potential to greatly affect agricultural crops like grapes, hops and hardwoods.
Heather Leach, an extension associate in entomology at Penn State University said planthoppers like spotted lanternfly have “a piercing, sucking mouth part” that can cause extensive damage to plants.
“It sticks its mouthpart into a tree, kind of like a mosquito but instead of feeding on human blood, of course, it’s feeding on plant sap,” she said in a phone interview with Land Line.
Leach said that the spotted lanternfly can damage plants and make them more vulnerable to other pests and diseases.
Truck drivers should be aware, because states can levy fines and civil penalties for transporting – knowingly or unknowingly – spotted lanternfly and/or their eggs.
Leach said that because the insect can feed on over 70 host species, it’s difficult to control and understand the population dynamics of the invasion. Satellite populations have appeared in New Jersey and Virginia.
“Where we’re seeing the most economic damage is definitely in vineyards,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot of grape growers get really hit with high populations of lanternfly and yield loss and even dying grapes. But again, it’s certainly not limited to grapes.”
Leach warned that the spotted lanternfly is a “good hitchhiker.” Adults are approximately 1-inch long, by a half-inch wide, with distinctive gray, black and red wings and a yellow abdomen. Immature stages are black with white spots, and develop red patches as they grow.
Leach said the egg mass stage looks “like a smear of mud” and can be found on any smooth, hard surface. Egg masses can be found on trees and plants, pallets, bricks, stone and metal.
To stop its spread, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, as well as surrounding states, have issued a quarantine for counties where the presence of spotted lanternfly have been confirmed. Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey, require permits for motor carriers who pick up or deliver a load in the quarantine zone.
Loads that originate outside the quarantine zone and are not being delivered within it do not require a permit to travel through the zone, per Pennsylvania State University Extension office, however, the office suggests that such businesses “consider securing the truck and load from hitchhiking spotted lanternfly.” Trucks that stop in the zone and unload product are required to obtain permits.
Penn State Extension and PDA have developed a free, self-paced, “train the trainer” online course to train a designated employee – usually the owner, manager, or supervisor – on how to comply with the quarantine regulations. A link to the course is available via the OOIDA Foundation website.
Once a designated employee passes the course, they will receive the requested number of spotted lanternfly permits for company vehicles. The designated employee must train fellow employees before granting them a permit. Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey all accept and recognize this permit.
The course will teach the designated employees what they need to know about the spotted lanternfly through short, informative videos. They will learn the spotted lanternfly lifecycle and how to identify each life stage, what it likes to eat, and where it likes to lay its eggs. They will also learn how to find and destroy spotted lanternflies and their egg masses, best practices for working in the quarantine zone, and the best ways to eliminate spotted lanternfly from their property.
Leach says there are a couple of recommended ways to deal with the spotted lanternfly at any life stage.
“First, the most immediate thing to do is to kill it,” she said. “And so with the nymphs and adults it’s really easy. Just kind of smash them.”
The egg mass stage is more difficult to destroy. Leach says the egg mass needs to be scraped off of whatever surface it’s located on, into a container that has rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. Then double-bag the container before disposing of them.
“We’re finding that they can hatch under a lot of different circumstances, and so we’re really worried about the egg mass stage in particular being transported,” she said. “If you just transport one nymph for instance, that might not make it to adulthood and even if it does it wouldn’t have anybody to mate with. And so the egg stage really is what would establish a new population in a new area.”
There are three sections in the course. Each section has a quiz at the end. Participants need to achieve a score greater than 70 percent on the quizzes in order to pass this course.
Once a designated employee passes this course, his or her company will receive spotted lanternfly permits for company vehicles. The designated employee must train fellow employees to work in the quarantine zone without inadvertently spreading these insects and endangering agriculture and commerce. Downloadable training materials, including PowerPoint presentations and fact sheets, are available in the course.
If you have questions about the permitting process, email the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture: email@example.com.
The following counties require spotted lanternfly permits:
If you are outside of the quarantine area, report any sightings to the Pennsylvania State University Extension at extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly or call 1-888-4-BADFLY (1-888-422-3359).
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