Today the Delaware Department of Agriculture put out an alert. A spotted lanternfly was found in New Castle county. You may not think this is a big deal but in fact is a very big deal, especially to the forestry and agriculture industries. Pennsylvania has had issues with the Spotted Lantern fly since 2014 when it was first discovered, and it was only a matter of time for them to show up in Delaware. I spoke with Stephen Hauss today of the Delaware Department of Agriculture. “We have only found one so far, but due to the cold last week probably killing many, we feel there are more. This was not a random discovery, we intentionally went looking for this species. The one we found was dead, but still sitting on a tree. They feed specifically on the tree of heaven, but will feed on other species such as willow and walnut trees. Stone fruit trees in particular are the most vulnerable, those would be your peach, apple, grapes and the like. We have to physically go look for them, there aren’t any ways to trap them right now. If you find any of these please report them to our website set up specifically for these invasives … de.gov.hitchhikerbug ”
I asked if Sussex county was at risk and Stephen Hauss said .. “Yes all of Delaware is at risk at this point. We are hard at work to determine if there is a reproducing population in New Castle county, or if this one just came in as a hitch hiker. We get hitchhikers on shipments, and even cars traveling from the Pennsylvania area. We are hoping to “recruit” Delaware citizens to be on the lookout and report if they see any spotted lanternfly adults, nymphs or egg masses.” You can download the Spotted Lanternfly Fact Sheet here if you would like some more information. “If allowed to spread, this pest could seriously impact the grape, orchard, and logging industries. Trees and plants that have been known to be affected are: Apples, Plums, Hops, Cherries, Grapes, Peaches, Nectarines, Apricots, Almonds, Pine Trees, Oak Trees, Walnut Trees, Poplar Trees, Willow Trees, Maple Trees, and Sycamore Trees”
I talked to a friend of mine at length today about the spotted lantern fly and why this is such an issue. I wouldn’t say Jeff Wildonger painted a grim picture, but this invasive species could be very devastating to the agriculture industry, especially grape growers, which in turn could hurt the wine industry. “It’s going to be bad. I’ve seen what they can do up in Pennsylvania. They feed on tree sap and because they consume way more sugar than they need, they literally crap sugar. It’s called honeydew and in areas with high numbers everything is covered in what looks and feels like maple syrup. After two hours working in a Pennsylvania forest with lanternfly, my legs were covered in sticky honeydew. This honeydew also attracts tons of flies and ants, and then after a few weeks, everything gets covered in a sooty mildew. Not only do these insects reduce crop yields, any fruit produced will likely be covered in that sooty mildew.”
So where did the Spotted Lanternfly come from, obviously they are not native to North America, and neither is the tree of heaven apparently. Jeff Wildonger …”They came over on a shipment of granite to Pennsylvania from China. The Tree of Heaven was introduced by William Bartram in the 1770’s in Philly in what is now the Philadelphia Zoo and Bartram Gardens. They are super common along the C&D canal and Delaware river because the seeds float. It is also very common along highways, especially 95. In fact the lanternfly was considered as a biocontrol at one time for the tree of heaven. They quickly realized the laternfly had too many hosts and was not suitable for intentional introduction.” How widespread could this invasive infest? Jeff, “I know they can survive New York to Virginia.” That means the entire Delmarva peninsula is at risk. Before anyone wants to freak out on China, we export our own invasive species as well. You can’t check all the shipments that thoroughly.
If you happen to see any of these invasive Spotted Lanternflies please follow the link and report them to the Delaware Department of Agriculture. Stephen Hauss, “We have an electronic form people can fill out on the website and upload pictures to report any findings. We would appreciate any and all the help we can get to stop this invasive species” As Stepehen mentioned they cannot trap these right now they have to physically find them and remove them. Jeff … “Sticky traps will work, but they also catch and kill other beneficial insects. There is a pheromone trap being worked on, like the Japanese beetle traps, that target the spotted lanternflies specifically.”