Spot­ted lantern­flies at­tack­ing trees across re­gion

The Phoenix - - LOCAL NEWS - By Bill Ret­tew bret­tew@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com

PHOENIXVILLE » The in­va­sive spot­ted lantern­fly in­sect is suck­ing the life out of trees in Chester, and 12 other south­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia coun­ties.

The op­por­tunis­tic in­sect uses a pro­boscis, or nee­dle straw, like a mos­quito, to suck the juices out of trees, es­pe­cially in north­ern Chester County.

A nui­sance tree, the Chi­nese tree of heaven (Ai­lan­thus al­tissima) is a prime feeder of wa­ter and nu­tri­ents, along with grape, cherry, peach, ap­ple, pine, sugar maple and cherry trees.

Ja­son Gaskill, as­sis­tant district man­ager of The Davey Tree Ex­pert Com­pany, said the spot­ted lantern­fly weak­ens a tree, while cre­at­ing bleed­ing wounds.

So far there are no so­lu­tions in south­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia, the epi­cen­ter of the attack of the in­va­sive in­sect, which was first spot­ted in Berks County in 2014.

There are no nat­u­ral preda­tors, no birds, par­a­sites or wasps to attack the spot­ted lantern­fly.

“Noth­ing is killing or hurt­ing them,” Gaskill said. “They’re in such a pop­u­la­tion and putting so much pres­sure on trees.”

In the fall, the lantern­fly lays its eggs. Each fe­male may lay a mass of up to 100 eggs at a time.

Chris Fields-John­son, tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sor for The Davey Tree Ex­pert Com­pany, said that trees may be treated with sys­temic in­sec­ti­cide, which the in­va­sive bugs feed on and then die. He also said that the spread is in­evitable.

Fields-John­son sug­gested that prop­erty own­ers with sev­eral Chi­nese trees of heaven take down all but one or two and treat the rest.

Fields-John­son also sug­gested that home­own­ers look for egg masses on ver­ti­cal sur­faces, like trees and sheds, and scrape them off and mash them up.

He also said that the tough-to-catch fly­ing in­sect should be crushed and killed.

“We have to do every­thing we can to slow the spread un­til we find bet­ter so­lu­tions, and find the time to come up with bet­ter so­lu­tions.”

So­lu­tions might in­clude in­tro­duc­tion of new preda­tors, like birds and in­sects, and use of par­a­site and hor­mone traps, like the ones used with the emer­ald ash borer.

Fields-John­son said the bug can move from spot to spot very quickly and is a great “hitch­hiker.”

Those with ques­tions or photos of sus­pected spot­ted lantern­flys are urged to con­tact bad­bug@pa.gov.

If you think you have a prob­lem, call a cer­ti­fied ar­borist. In­spec­tions are typ­i­cally free.

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