Mary­land on the look­out for spot­ted lantern­fly in­va­sion

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JANE BELLMYER jbellmyer@ce­cil­

ELK­TON — While they haven’t yet been spot­ted in Ce­cil County, farm­ers here are on the look­out for a new in­va­sive species: the spot­ted lantern­fly.

The col­or­ful but harm­ful in­va­sive plant­hop­per that has al­ready caused se­ri­ous crop dam­age in neigh­bor­ing south­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia. Of­fi­cials with the Penn­syl­va­nia Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture have es­ti­mated the loss due to the spot­ted lantern­fly to that state’s econ­omy at $18 bil­lion across 13 coun­ties. It’s also been spot­ted in Delaware.

So far, the lantern­fly has not been spot­ted in Mary­land, but Doris Behnke, who serves as a se­nior agent as­so­ciate with the Univer­sity of Mary­land Ex­ten­sion Of­fice in Elk­ton and also owns Turkey Point Vine­yard near North East, is among those keep­ing a sharp eye out.

“I was coach­ing my grape prun­ing crew to be look­ing for them or any un­usual egg masses that the might see on the vines while prun­ing, and they said they have not seen any,” Behnke said via email. “I know this pest has been a real prob­lem in Penn­syl­va­nia, and I guess it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore it reaches us.”

Aaron Shurtl­eff is a state sur­vey co­or­di­na­tor for the Mary­land Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and he’s also been watch­ing the mi­gra­tion. Penn­syl­va­nia re­cently let Mary­land know the in­sects are now within 8-10 miles of the state line.

“We have not found any pop­u­la­tions in Mary­land to date,” Shurtl­eff said, adding, “We’re hold­ing our breath too.”

Like the gypsy moth, the emer­ald ash borer and any nu­mer­ous other nui­sances, the spot­ted lantern­fly was im­ported here from China, al­though they are also in Korea, Shurtl­eff said. He said re­searchers in China are try­ing to help by find­ing some­thing ben­e­fi­cial that won’t hurt the ecol­ogy here but would erad­i­cate the spot­ted lantern­fly.

Spot­ted lantern­flies, in their adult stage, are ac­tu­ally a col- or­ful in­sect with beige wings that have darker half cir­cles at the wing tips and spots along the wing tops. A sec­ond set of wings is darker brown and white. Along the wings on its back is a dis­tinc­tive dark or­ange or red patch. But don’t let that fool you, Shurtl­eff said.

“They are a true bug. They eat with pierc­ing mouth parts and suck out the juices,” he said.

That drains the plant of its nu­tri­ents. Spot­ted lantern­flies pre­fer grapes, ap­ples, cher­ries, peaches and blue­ber­ries as well as cu­cum­bers, and wil­low, wal­nut and oak trees to name a few.

Adding in­sult to in­jury, the bugs also re­lease a hon­ey­dew that is full of sugar.

“It en­cour­ages the growth of molds,” he said. “You can’t see it to wash it off.”

He said in larger swarms that hon­ey­dew lit­er­ally falls like rain.

Be­cause this is still an area with four sea­sons, Shurtl­eff said it is un­likely the spot- ted lantern­fly will be able to have more than one breed­ing sea­son. Any eggs laid last fall will start to hatch next month. Those egg masses look like a smudge of dirt, he said, mean­ing only the trained eye could likely spot one.

“They lay the egg mass on ver­ti­cal sur­faces like trees and pic­nic ta­bles,” he said, not­ing masses have also been spot­ted on pa­tio fur­ni­ture and rail­road cars.

Once hatched, look for a tick-like bug with white spots.

“They get red with age,” he said. “In the end of July, they molt into adults.”

Mary­land has not reached the need to is­sue quar­an­tines as have been in­sti­tuted in ar­eas in­clud­ing Chester County, Pa., in an ef­fort to stop the spread. But in the mean­time Shurtl­eff is ask­ing that any­one who sees an egg mass or — as sum­mer ar­rives — a ju­ve­nile or adult spot­ted lantern­fly to re­port its lo­ca­tion to dont­­

Then kill it to stop the spread.


The Mary­land Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture is ask­ing peo­ple in Ce­cil County to be on the look­out for this pretty but deadly in­sect called the spot­ted lantern­fly. It’s al­ready caused $18 bil­lion dol­lars in lost ag rev­enue in Penn­syl­va­nia.

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