Get to know the spotted lanternfly

JOHN RISHEL/THE EXPRESS The spotted lantern fly is shown above in various stages of its lifecycle.

LOCK HAVEN — The Clinton County commissioners got a lesson on the spotted lanternfly on Monday.

Tom Butzler, a horticulture extension educator for the Penn State University Cooperative Extension, talked about the invasive insect from Asia that may be found on imported Christmas trees brought to the state and gave a presentation on keeping the pest contained.

“Our website contains a series of fact sheets on the lifecycles, general biology. Right now they are confined to 13 counties, these quarantine zones where an extensive effort is beought put in to keep the pest contained and eventually eradicate them. There is information on how to identify them, and also a hotline people can call and report them, so it can be tagged live on our mapping system, said Butzler, who has worked intensively with vegetable growers, landscape and turf professionals and area farmers with their production and pest management issues.

“Butzler and the Cooperative Extension are staying on top of this, they are educating us. We have seen them reported in Clinton County, but the newest issue with imported plants is Christmas trees,” Commissioner Pete Smeltz said.

“There are some concerns with Christmas trees, but anyone selling plant material must go through a thorough inspection process. Businesses within the quarantine zone must have a permit to move things around. Someone on their staff have to be trained on the spotted lanternfly,” Butzler said.

“The biology, indentification, there are steps you have to go through as an owner or manager of those companies to relay that information to the rest of your staff,” he added.

“There are several steps in place. It is not foolproof, it can be missed. It is a possibility that the lanternfly could get out of the quarantine zone, but we are making efforts to prevent that.”

“Could these go from Christmas trees to the local vegetation?” Smeltz asked.

“When dealing with Christmas trees, it would most likely be the egg part of the cycle, or nits. The house environment is not conclusive to growth, they would be likely to die,” Butzler assured.

“They are not biting, they are not transmitting diseases, but people do need to realize that these trees are growing in an ecosystem and bringing that into your home is always a possibility. There is a big industry in Pennsylvania for Christmas trees.”

“This time of year, it is very important to keep that in mind,” Commissioner Paul Conklin noted.

“The lanternfly could lay eggs on RVs, vehicles …. pretty much any kind of surface,” Butzler said.

“We live in a very mobile society. It is vital that we keep an eye on these things as we travel. It has been one invader after another, and it is really starting to take a toll on our forests,” said Commissioner Jeff Snyder.

“It does fall on the citizens, too, to get educated on identification and prevention of these types of pests,” Butzler finished.

Butzler offered hand-outs about the insect, which is currently being found in southeastern Pennsylvania, and sightings have been reported in some neighboring states.

The pest threatens important agricultural commodities, including the grape, hardwood, tree fruit, landscape, and nursery industries – sectors that contribute nearly $18 billion annually to Pennsylvania’s economy, he said.

Spotted lanternflies weaken plants by feeding on sap and they excrete a sticky, sugary substance called honeydew, which attracts stinging insects, promotes the growth of sooty mold, and causes a messy nuisance for residents.

The lanternfly, which does not bite or sting, is considered a destructive invasive pest, threatening agricultural, timber and ornamental industries, and even backyard plants.

Citizens can help stop the spread of the spotted lanternfly by checking their cars and any outdoor equipment such as grills, mowers, firewood, etc., when going in and out of quarantine zones, Butzler said.

SLF can be managed on personal property by scraping eggs, banding trees, removing the favored host (tree-of-heaven), and using chemical control when appropriate.

If the spotted lanternfly is present, trees, such as tree of heaven and willow, will start to develop weeping wounds.

These wounds will leave a greyish or black trail along the trunk and this sap will attract other insects to feed, notably wasps and ants.

To know what to look for, spotted lanternfly adults are about one-inch long and a half-inch wide with wings folded. Nymphs are 1/4 to 1/2 inch long and develop through four stages. all of which are wingless.

To get more information, visit extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly or call 1-888-422-3359.

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