Quarantines ordered in some PA counties for spotted lanternfly
MUNCY – On Tuesday, Feb. 26 three Master Gardeners from the Lycoming County Penn State Extension presented a program to the Muncy Herb Guild at the Muncy Library to explain the threat imposed by an invasive insect from Asia.
Currently the “spotted lanternfly” has been discovered in southeastern Pennsylvania and is now working its way toward this region. “It is a pretty bug, but watch out,” said Deb Steransky. “Sixteen counties and agricultural businesses are affected,” said Irene Harris. “This could be a terrible economic impact in our state,” added Daryl Kern. “It is not will they come, but when,” warned the Master Gardeners.
It was first discovered in 2012 in Pennsylvania and in Berks County in 2014 where a quarantine has been set. “It is very widespread and has wiped out grape crops in Korea,” Steransky said and showed a map of the invasion process in PA. They are laying egg masses on pallets of rocks. Other neighboring states like New York, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts are affected with quarantine areas.
It is important to stop the spread, and the best way is to destroy the life stages that you find, as explained by Steransky. The four stages are eggs laid from October to June, then they hatch late April to mid July and reach adult hood from July through December. “They lay their eggs over the winter on the trees and it looks a lot like mud,” said Steransky as she showed a slide presentation of the various life cycles. “They are leaf hoppers.”
Strands of eggs easily can be seen along the barks of host trees that include black walnut, maple, birch, willow, and staghorn sumac. Besides grape vines, they also go after apple trees. “They create a sooty mold on leaves,” Steransky said, “and then the plant can’t absorb sunlight.”
Although there is much research going on, the Master Gardeners stated that there is still a lot to learn. There is a big concern for hardwoods as Pennsylvania is the number one producer in the country, number four for apples and peaches and number five for grapes. It will be a big loss to property values, tourism and parks.
Kern explained an encounter she had last August in Montgomery County with masses of them during a music festival.
She stressed how important it is to check everything you have, including your car and clothing, when visiting the quarantined areas. “Be vigilant,” she said to stop the spread. “Identify the egg masses, and don’t move firewood. Check all outdoor equipment and furniture, and don’t park under infested trees.”
The state has adopted a motto ‘LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAVE!’ The Master Gardeners attended a training conference in Berks County where the lantern fly can be seen just about everywhere they said.
If eggs are spotted on any trees, scrape them off, burn them, smash them or put them in alcohol. They recommend to use a credit card to scrape the eggs or tree branding in the spring with duck tape.
“The tree of heaven attracts them,” said Harris. “This is their favorite host and it is native to China.” It was first imported to Philadelphia and is valued as a street shade tree that grows quickly, but competes for space with natives. “It is rapid and invasive,” Harris said and recommends removing them from your property. Their roots are tremendous and they grow up to 8 feet a year, some reaching as high as 100 feet. They are a very soft wood, pale bark, relatively short lived and 6 feet in diameter. They can be identified by their compound leaves which are 1 to 3 feet long. “Their texture resembles that of a cantaloupe,” Harris said. “Females can produce 300,000 seeds annually. You can see them growing along the river.” PPL cuts them down but according to Harris because of their extensive root system, that only stimulates more growth. “Hack them, slice them, squirt them with systemic herbicides.” Ask a professional for help and read the labels if using any insecticides. Sometimes home remedies can be unsafe for pets or other plants, and can harm the landscape.
It is best to trap the spotted lanternfly in the trees in the spring during the nymph stage. Ongoing research on mating habits will continue as well as biological control. More than 18 billion dollars have been invested commercially. For now, find ways to lure and attract them advised the Master Gardeners and the professionals. If spotted, report them immediately to the hotline at 1-888-4BADFLY or 1-888-422-3359. If possible, collect a specimen or take a picture. “Getting the word out is vital,” Steransky said.