Spot­ted lantern­fly caus­ing havoc in state

Centre Daily Times (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY SARAH RAFACZ [email protected]­tredaily.com

An in­va­sive species of in­sect from Asia, called the spot­ted lantern­fly, puts dozens of Penn­syl­va­nia’s plants and crops at risk, as well as leaves “hon­ey­dew” be­hind af­ter feed­ing, which can cre­ate a mess for home­own­ers.

While it’s not a prob­lem in Cen­tre County yet, it likely will be.

The spot­ted lantern­fly was first found in the United States in 2014 in Berks County. Since then, it has spread to 13 coun­ties in south­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia, which is des­ig­nated as a quar­an­tine zone.

There’s a lot of re­search go­ing on at Penn State to learn more about the bi­ol­ogy and be­hav­ior of the spot­ted lantern­fly, as well as the best in­sec­ti­cides to use to kill it and other ef­fec­tive man­age­ment tac­tics that aren’t chem­i­cal, said Heather Leach, spot­ted lantern­fly ex­ten­sion as­so­ciate at Penn State.

The host list for the spot­ted lantern­fly in­cludes 70-plus species, and that’s con­tin­u­ing to grow as more is learned about the in­sect, she said.

“The threat re­ally is not lim­ited to any one spe­cific crop or plant and so that makes it re­ally dif­fi­cult to man­age,” she said.

WHAT THE LANTERN­FLY DOES— AND HOW TO STOP IT

Ef­forts to keep the pest from spread­ing out of the quar­an­tine zone, Leach said, in­clude re­quir­ing that busi­nesses that trans­port ma­te­rial check to make sure they’re not also let­ting the spot­ted lantern­fly hitch a ride; sup­press­ing and re­duc­ing the pop­u­la­tions in the quar­an­tine zone; and build­ing a “moat” around the quar­an­tine zone.

Some home­own­ers in the quar­an­tine zone have re­ported is­sues with “hon­ey­dew” — the spot­ted lantern­fly uses its pierc­ing suck­ing mouth­part to suck plant sap out of the trunk, branches and leaves of plants, she said. But with the nu­tri­ents it’s get­ting, also comes sugar wa­ter, which the lantern­fly ex­cretes as waste, or hon­ey­dew.

She said the hon­ey­dew can start to ac­cu­mu­late near where the lantern­fly feeds (like a tree over­hang­ing some­one’s deck). Then “sooty mold” can grow, feed­ing off the hon­ey­dew.

Peo­ple have had to power-wash their decks, and Leach said she’s some got­ten com­plaints of peo­ple hav­ing trou­ble sell­ing their homes in the quar­an­tine zone be­cause the hon­ey­dew and sooty mold.

WILL IT COME TO CEN­TRE COUNTY?

Cen­tre County, for now, is free of the pest.

“There have been iso­lated re­ports of in­di­vid­ual in­sects, but no es­tab­lished pop­u­la­tions in Cen­tre County. Th­ese are most likely in­sects that ‘hitch­hiked’ there on ve­hi­cles or items be­ing trans­ported out of the quar­an­tined area,” Shan­non Pow­ers, press sec­re­tary for the Pa. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, said in an email. “Most re­ports in Cen­tre County have turned out to be other in­sects.”

Each re­ported sight­ing is in­ves­ti­gated by a team that con­firms the in­sect’s pres­ence and then sur­veys thor­oughly to de­ter­mine whether there are oth­ers, she said.

The state Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture has tracked re­ported sight­ings since 2014.

“The po­ten­tial for it spread­ing is, to be frank, re­ally high,” Leach said.

The state and fed­eral ag de­part­ments are do­ing a great job keep­ing the in­sect con­tained in Penn­syl­va­nia, Leach said, but it’s an in­sect with a pop­u­la­tion that is very high and con­trol­ling it is re­ally dif­fi­cult.

“I do ex­pect it to come to Cen­tre County even­tu­ally. Whether that’s next year or in a few years, I’m not quite sure,” she said.

Leach said she thinks county res­i­dents should be aware of the pest and check to see if they have tree-of-heaven — one of the spot­ted lantern­fly’s pre­ferred hosts and also an in­va­sive species — in their back­yards. If so, they may want to con­sider re­mov­ing them or, at least, keep an eye on them and use them as a mon­i­tor­ing tool.

ARE CHRIST­MAS TREES SAFE?

And with the holi­days ap­proach­ing, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check your Christ­mas tree for egg masses. Leach said the spot­ted lantern­fly doesn’t feed on Christ­mas trees, but it’s not out of the realm of pos­si­bil­ity that they could lay eggs on them.

Egg masses are about an inch to an inch and a half long and look like a “gray splat­ter of mud,” Leach said, adding that un­der­neath that cov­er­ing is rows of seed-like eggs (about 30 to 50 in each egg mass).

If you do find egg masses, they can eas­ily be re­moved and killed, Leach said, by scrap­ing them off the sur­face with a credit card, putty knife or even a stick and then mak­ing sure all the eggs are smashed. (You also can place them in al­co­hol, Pow­ers said.)

Were you to bring an egg mass inside on your Christ­mas tree ac­ci­den­tally and the nymphs hatched, which Leach said is re­ally un­likely, they would die within a few hours be­cause they’re weak and wouldn’t have any­thing to feed on. They wouldn’t hurt hu­mans or pets, she said.

“The best thing that we can do is get early re­port­ing in Cen­tre County be­cause if it’s here, if we spot it ... early on in the pop­u­la­tion ... we’d be able to come in (and) erad­i­cate that pop­u­la­tion lo­cally,” Leach said.

If you sus­pect you’ve seen a spot­ted lantern­fly or egg mass, you can re­port it on­line at ex­ten­sion.psu.edu/ spot­ted-lantern­fly or call 1-888-4-BADFLY.

ABBY DREY [email protected]­tredaily.com

Th­ese large fe­male spot­ted lantern­fly spec­i­mens are be­ing dis­sected and an­a­lyzed by Penn State re­searchers in the school’s Agri­cul­ture Sciences and In­dus­try Build­ing.

ABBY DREY [email protected]­tredaily.com

Penn State re­search tech­nol­o­gist Dana Roberts dis­sects fe­male spot­ted lantern­flies to test the sym­bi­otic bac­te­ria liv­ing on or in them, on Fri­day, in Penn State’s Agri­cul­ture Sciences and In­dus­try Build­ing.

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