Northampton Press

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

County extension on offensive to curb Spotted Lanternfly threat

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Local News

At one stage of its life, the Spotted Lanternfly looks like a red and black creature from a scary monster movie.

However, the Spotted Lanternfly threat is real and not some fictional movie plot.

Even so, true to a Hollywood creature feature, the government is ready to do battle.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has allocated $17.5 million to halt the spread of the Spotted Lanternfly in Pennsylvania.

The Lehigh Valley is at the epicenter of the battle to stop the invasive pest that threatens the livelihood of vineyard, fruit tree and forestry business owners in the state.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is already in the fray with 13 counties in southeastern Pennsylvania under a quarantine.

The Penn State Lehigh County Extension has been holding education seminars to enlist the aid of the public on the battleground’s front lines — their own backyards.

And that’s not all. The Spotted Lanternfly, also known as a plant hopper, is adept at hitching rides on vehicles, firewood and even Christmas trees to spread its menace.

“You’re going to do your best to check out your camper for the bug,” Randy Fey, master gardener, master watershed steward and forester for the City of Allentown, 1983-2009, told The Press before the April 18 Spotted Lanternfly workshop. It was a packed meeting room of an estimated 50 persons in the Salisbury Township Municipal Building.

“What this program is about is awareness so that when it lands on their property, they know,” Fey said.

According to the PDA website, the following counties are under quarantine for the Spotted Lanternfly: Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia and Schuylkill.

The 13-county quarantine is an attempt to restrict the movement of the Spotted Lanternfly.

“This insect was here two years before anyone knew it was here,” Fey said.

The Spotted Lanternfly was discovered in September 2014 in eastern Berks County. It is native to China, India and Vietnam and was introduced to Korea.

Fey estimates the Spotted Lanternfly could subject Pennsylvania agriculture to $19 billion in losses.

Research began in 2014 in Pennsylvania. The Spotted Lanternfly population overwinters as egg masses and has a one-year life cycle. In Pennsylvania, the first nymphs hatch in late April to early May and are less than one-quarter-inch long. Adults begin to appear in mid-July and are approximately 1 inch long and 1/2 inch wide, with wings folded.

During his talk, Fey showed photographs of Spotted Lanternflies at various stages of their life, egg masses and the damage they’ve done to fruit trees.

“They will lay their eggs everywhere,” Fey said. “We’re trying to keep this in check until we can figure out how to eradicate it.”

Displaying a photo of a Spotted Lanternfly egg mass, Fey said, “It can ferment in time, and it can really stink.”

The gooey substance can attract ants.

“Now you have more insects coming in,” Fey said. “They (Spotted Lanternflies) can get on your cars, your decks. They congregate. It’s not like the stink bug that gets in your house.

“They do not bite, but when you go after them, they jump like a grasshopper,” Fey said.

Fey said the Spotted Lanternfly can fly 50 to 75 yards.

Fey recommends homeowners and residents check the following for the Spotted Lanternfly: household items, crated materials, vehicles (campers, trailers, recreational vehicles), outdoor furniture, stone or tile decorative materials, firewood, nursery stock.

Residents are urged to scrape off egg masses, bag them and destroy them.

They are also asked to collect specimens and submit them to the PDA, report Spotted Lanternfly sightings to 1-866-253-7189 and take a photo of them and send to Badbug@pa.gov.

“If everybody does what they can for their own sites, we can get a handle on this,” Fey said.

The meeting in Salisbury was the seventh and final in the latest workshop series conducted by Penn State Extension in the Lehigh Valley, including those held at the Whitehall Township Municipal Building, New Tripoli Fire Company, Weisenberg Fire Department, Lower Macungie Township Community Building, Upper Macungie Township Municipal Building and Salisbury Township Municipal Building.