Spot­ted lantern­fly is un­wel­come in­vader

The Phoenix - - NEWS - By Evan Brandt [email protected]­tu­ry­media. com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

Al­though is­sues sur­round­ing im­mi­grants dom­i­nated many of 2018’s head­lines, it was a dif­fer­ent kind of un­wanted alien that ar­rived in South­east Penn­syl­va­nia in 2018 and may dom­i­nate next year’s head­lines as well.

We’re talk­ing of course about that col­or­ful pest, the spot­ted lantern­fly.

It seemed like you couldn’t take two steps without be­ing hit, lit­er­ally, by one of these Asian pests with the rain­bow wings un­til the first sev­eral frosts killed the adults.

First spot­ted in western Berks County in 2014, au­thor­i­ties have worked to con­tain the in­va­sion of the in­sect which is na­tive to China and Viet­nam, but ap­par­ently jumped the Pa­cific on a pal­let of stone de­liv­ered to Berks County at some point in the last few years.

Since its ar­rival, it has spread from one to 13 coun­ties in South­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia and is mak­ing in­roads into Vir­ginia, Mary­land, Delaware and New Jersey.

The lantern­fly’s fa­vorite food is the “tree of heaven,” which sci­en­tists call ailan­thus al­tissima.

It is it­self an in­va­sive species, which is very hard to kill. It is also from Asia and al­though the spot­ted lantern­fly prefers it, the bug is quickly de­vel­op­ing a taste for na­tive North Amer­i­can trees, in­clud­ing fruit trees, valu­able hard­woods and grapevines.

When they feed, the lantern­fly harms trees in two ways. The first is when it pierces the bark to feed on the nu­tri­ents in the layer be­neath, rob­bing the tree of nu­tri­ents as well as leav­ing “weep­ing wounds” which can at­tract bees and ants, and also pro­vides other in­sects or dis­ease ac­cess to the tree’s in­te­rior.

The sec­ond way is what the in­sect ex­cretes. Called “hon­ey­dew,” it is sweet and sticky, but it turns black into what Corondi called “sooty mold.” This smelly sub­stance coats leaves and im­pedes pho­to­syn­the­sis.

The spot­ted lantern­fly has seven stages of life, begin­ning with the gray egg masses. The masses which look like a mass of mud, usu­ally ver­ti­cally ori­ented on trees, rocks or even the sid­ing of your house.

Each egg mass con­tains be­tween 30 to 50 eggs.

They can be hard to spot be­cause when fresh, they are a gray mass, usu­ally laid on an equally gray sur­face and, as they dry out, they turn a dull gray.

Sadly, the cold does not kill the eggs, which will be mostly laid by late Novem­ber and will hatch in the spring into small nymphs about the size of a tick.

They grow to about the size of a dime and take on the strik­ing red and black col­or­ing with white spots.

In this state, the lantern­fly is ac­tu­ally sus­cep­ti­ble to be­ing sprayed with soapy water as the film from the soap can keep the bugs from breath­ing through their skin. But once they grow wings, this method seems to work less well.

Spot­ted lantern­fly do not pose a risk to hu­man health, but can af­fect for­est hard­wood prod­ucts worth $16.7 bil­lion in in Penn­syl­va­nia.

They like oak, maple and wal­nut and also af­fect ap­ple and peach trees, an in­dus­try worth more than $119 mil­lion. In par­tic­u­lar they pose a risk to Penn­syl­va­nia’s $944 mil­lion nurs­ery and land­scape in­dus­try.

The bugs travel the long­est distances by hitching rides on our cars, trains and freighters.

That’s why of­fi­cials urge peo­ple to care­fully in­spect their cars, trucks, trail­ers, campers and even fire­wood they are trans­port­ing to make sure they are not help­ing the pest to spread to other ar­eas.

A va­ri­ety of chem­i­cal weapons can be used. Sev­eral pes­ti­cides work, pro­vid­ing you can get close enough to use them.

A method called “hack and squirt” uses a type of pes­ti­cide called “sys­temics.” The lantern­fly fighter uses a down­ward stroke to cut some holes in a “tree of heaven” in­fested with lantern­fly and into these holes, ap­ply spe­cific pes­ti­cides de­signed for this func­tion.

The tree with take up the pes­ti­cide, which the lantern­fly will in­gest as it feeds on the tree.

Elim­i­nat­ing all but one or two tree of heaven in a wooded area will force the lantern­fly to fo­cus on the re­main­ing trees.

Us­ing the sys­temic method then al­lows you to poi­son many more lantern­fly with less poi­son, as well as elim­i­nat­ing more of the in­va­sive trees.

Un­for­tu­nately, be­cause the trees are dor­mant for the win­ter, this kind of as­sault must wait for spring.


The in­va­sive spot­ted lantern fly is dam­ag­ing trees in through­out south­east Penn­syl­va­nia.


This map shows sam­pling from 23014 through this year. the red dots in­di­cated that so far, the spot­ted lantern­fly re­mains con­cen­trated in south­east Penn­syl­va­nia.


This slide shows how credit cards can be used to scrape spot­ted lanter­fly egg masses off what­ever they are at­tached to and put into a plas­tic bag to be de­stroyed. Each mass con­tains 30 to 50 eggs.

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