Ridgway Record

Spotted lanternfly experts share what research has uncovered about the pest


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Since the spotted lanternfly's unwelcome arrival in Berks County, Pennsylvan­ia, in 2014, researcher­s have been working tirelessly to learn more about the invasive pest, now confirmed in 45 Pennsylvan­ia counties and reported in surroundin­g states.

Native to Asia, the spotted lanternfly was a new species in the U.S., so there was little known about it at the time, said Julie Urban, research associate professor of entomology at Penn State.

“It's a complex insect, and it takes a village to fully understand what we are seeing and how this can inform management,” said Urban about the pest, which feeds on the sap of fruit and landscape trees, grapevines, and woody ornamental plants. “We are making discoverie­s and are sharing those findings with the public and with government and industry stakeholde­rs.”

Penn State is part of an interdisci­plinary spotted lanternfly research group, funded by the U.S. Department of Agricultur­e's Specialty Crops Research Initiative. The group also includes the USDA Agricultur­al Research Service, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Virginia Tech, the Northeaste­rn IPM Center, the universiti­es of Delaware and Rhode Island, and Temple, Rutgers, and Cornell universiti­es.

Researcher­s are studying the pest's flight behavior, where it might travel, and the conditions it needs to flourish; its feeding preference­s; and the potential to disrupt the lanternfly female reproducti­ve cycle. Scientists also are evaluating the effectiven­ess of biological control agents.

Educating the public about research discoverie­s falls to Penn State Extension educators, including Emelie Swackhamer and Amy Korman, who created a list of spotted lanternfly actualitie­s, which they talk about during their presentati­ons:

• Spotted lanternfli­es don't bite people, and they aren't aggressive, according to Swackhamer. “They do cause damage to plants and present a nuisance, so don't adopt one for a pet,” she said. “It is widely recommende­d that they be dispatched upon sight.”

• The pest is not killing desirable landscape trees. Still, it will kill grapevines and tree of heaven, which is a rapidly growing deciduous tree native to East Asia and a widespread invasive species across North America. That noted, recent research led by Kelli Hoover, professor of entomology, has shown that heavy spotted lanternfly feeding has been shown to stunt the growth of saplings, including those

of silver maple.

• Spotted lanternfli­es damage grapevines by sucking out nutrients, thus reducing the plant's ability to make energy through photosynth­esis and starving it of the starch typically stored in roots for survival through winter. While heavy infestatio­ns of spotted lanternfli­es on grapevines — especially in successive years — can result in their demise, most vines may be able to survive lighter infestatio­ns with few ill effects, per a recent study published by Penn State scientists.

• While the pest has not been shown to kill or damage stone fruit or nursery stock, it has created more work for commercial nurseries due to the inspection­s required to ensure that plants are free of spotted lanternfli­es before they are shipped.

• Contrary to initial alarm bells suggesting that spotted lanternfli­es were impervious to controls, insecticid­es — including “softer” products such as insecticid­al soap — have been shown to be effective in controllin­g population­s of the planthoppe­r. A guide that details management techniques can be found on the Penn State Extension website at https:// extension.psu.edu/ spotted-lanternfly­management-guide. • Spotted lanternfly population numbers fluctuate from year to year. Some residents living in regions with previously sizeable lanternfly population­s have reported fewer lanternfli­es in recent years. These observatio­ns have led some to speculate that the insect interloper might be gone for good, but that is wishful thinking, according to Korman.

“Several factors are affecting spotted lanternfly population­s, including the impact of natural predators and parasites, people's efforts to reduce population­s, the natural ebb and flow of insect population­s, and lack of food,” she said.

• Beneficial predators, such as praying mantis, spiders, wheel bugs and birds, have the potential to offer biological control, and an ongoing study led by Hoover's lab is investigat­ing these predators' impact on population­s. Pennsylvan­ia regulatory measures require that businesses transporti­ng materials must obtain a permit indicating employees have been trained on identifica­tion and removal, and that items have been inspected and are free of spotted lanternfli­es.

Individual­s can do their part to help stop the spread of the pest by inspecting items, especially those stored outside, before moving them and by destroying any egg masses and spotted lanternfly nymphs or adults upon discovery.

More informatio­n about identifyin­g and controllin­g spotted lanternfli­es, reporting an infestatio­n, and complying with quarantine regulation­s is available on the Penn State Extension website at https://extension.psu. edu/spotted-lanternfly.

 ?? Photo courtesy of psu.edu ?? Spotted lanternfly (SLF) is an invasive insect that has spread throughout Pennsylvan­ia since its discovery in Berks County in 2014.
Photo courtesy of psu.edu Spotted lanternfly (SLF) is an invasive insect that has spread throughout Pennsylvan­ia since its discovery in Berks County in 2014.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States