January 2018 Issue of Wines & Vines

Pennsylvania Quarantine Area Expands for Spotted Lanternfly

by Linda Jones McKee

Harrisburg, Pa.—When the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture confirmed in 2014 that the invasive species known as the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) had been found in Berks County, Pa., the department set up a quarantine zone of seven municipalities in an attempt to control spread of the insects. 

At that time, Richard Blair, owner of Setter Ridge Vineyards in Kutztown, Pa., had never seen a spotted lanternfly (SLF) in his 7-acre vineyard in Rockland Township, one of the quarantined municipalities. Four seasons later, he is now very familiar with SLF: In 2017, he removed between 500,000 and 750,000 insects from his vineyards. 

Because of the spread of SLF in southeastern Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced in early November that the quarantine zone would be applied at the county level, not just the municipal level. The expansion adds Carbon, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Monroe, Philadelphia and Schuylkill counties, and the quarantine zone now includes most of Pennsylvania south of the Pocono Mountains and east of the Susquehanna River. While SLF has not been confirmed in all of these locations, there is a high risk of SLF spreading in those areas. 

A native of China, India and Vietnam, the 1-inch-long SLF uses its piercing-sucking mouthparts to feed on the sap of trees and vines. Host plants include apple trees, grapevines, hardwood trees and more than 70 other plant species. The insects prefer Ailanthus altissima (Tree of Heaven), an invasive sumac-like tree that is ubiquitous along interstate highways, railway beds and other transportation corridors. 

In addition to trying to eliminate both the insects and Tree of Heaven “mother” trees that bear the seeds, the state Department of Agriculture is working with local, state and federal agencies to obtain additional aid and assistance. The department received $2.9 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture this year to control SLF and another $25,000 for outreach efforts. Because the problem is expanding, the agency has requested additional federal funding of $10 million to $12 million. 

“Three years into this infestation, we’ve been successful at keeping the spotted lanternfly solely a ‘Pennsylvania problem,’ thanks to our cooperative federal and state containment efforts,” stated Russell Redding, Pennsylvania’s agriculture secretary. “But it is becoming apparent that we must bring more resources to bear if we want to eradicate this pest. It’s also going to take the cooperation and support of the public.” 

Information about identification and symptoms of the SLF and what to do if egg masses or specimens are found is available at agriculture.pa.gov/spottedlanternfly.  

According to Blair, there currently are no pesticides certified to spray for SLF. “They will probably find a biological application,” Blair said, noting that the insects also hit apple orchards, and their owners will be as anxious to find some controls for SLF as grapegrowers. “The spotted lanternfly is going to be a problem for the U.S.,” Blair warned, “just like the stink bug.”

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