Spotted lanternfly

Spotted lanternfly

Spotted lantern flies are not a problem in Tioga County, and the state Department of Agriculture would like to make sure they don’t become one.

The pests, which destroy ornamental shrubbery and fruit trees, are active in Berks County, and have spread to 13 southern counties in, but officials are concerned they could make their way to Tioga County in the luggage or vehicles of visitors.

Last month, Gov. Tom Wolf and Russell Redding, the state’s agriculture secretary, visited a spot in Harrisburg that’s been populated by the invasive insect for a firsthand look at the treatment being conducted there and in counties across the commonwealth.

The governor’s farm bill provides $3 million for the containment of the spotted lanternfly, which threatens the state’s agriculture industry.

Spotted lanternflies suck the sap from plants and secrete a sugary substance that causes a harmful mold to grow, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

The pest could kill soybeans and degrade the quality of corn. It also could reduce the sugar content for the vineyards, affecting the grape industry, degrade the quality and reduce the sugars in peaches or strawberries.

At the department’s website, www.agriculture.pa.gov, there is a checklist for travelers to use before heading out.

According to Heather Leach, spotted lanternfly extension associate in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, an effective way to control spotted lanternfly and reduce damage to trees in one’s backyard is the use of traps. Leach noted that while these traps can reduce populations on a small scale and help with monitoring for the pest beyond the current 14-county quarantine zone, the traps are unlikely to reduce the population of spotted lanternflies.

Currently, the most effective trap is a sticky band wrapped around the trunks of trees. Spotted lanternfly nymphs and adults are trapped on the sticky barrier as they crawl up the trunks to feed higher up the tree.

When looking for spotted lanternfly infestation, look for egg masses, which have putty or mud-like covering and are visible from January through May.

During the summer months, lanternfly nymphs will go from being black with white spots to red and black with white spots during the later stages.

If you find the pests or their egg masses here, try to collect it and preserve it in a vial filled with alcohol. Itf not able to do that, at least take a photo of it and report it to the state Department of Agriculture by emailing badbug@pa.gov, or call the invasive species hotline at 866-253-7189.

Any stage of spotted lanterfly located in an area where it is known to exist should be destroyed.

Each female will lay 100 or more eggs in the fall, so destroying even one female can reduce the future population.

There are no natural enemies of the pest as far as it is known. Over time, natural enemies often find invasive species, but for now it is uncertain if this is happening on a level that is making a difference.

Insecticides are effective on ornamental trees and plantings, but only if used according to label instructions. Some infestations may require a professional to apply treatment.