Spotted lanternfly territory expanding

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) has expanded its quarantine area for the spotted lanternfly (SLF) from six counties to 13. This includes counties where the insect’s presence has been confirmed but also areas where there is a very high risk of spread.

Why such an aggressive approach by PDA? Look no further than Pennsylvania’s Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding’s press conference on Nov. 3 addressing the new strategy on SLF: “This invasive insect threatens to destroy $18 billion worth of agricultural commodities here like apples, grapes and hardwoods, inflicting a devastating impact on the livelihoods of our producers and businesses.”

Okay, so words on paper might not mean much, but one only has to follow the money to see how worried officials are. So far, PDA has received $2.9 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) this year to control the insect and $25,000 for outreach efforts. USDA has also contributed personnel at no expense to the state. In addition, Pennsylvania has requested another $10 to $12 million in additional federal support to address the expanding problem.

Here is how you can help state officials monitor the spread. The favorite host for SLF is tree of heaven (Ailanthus), where it does most of its feeding and breeding. I see this tree in wood lots, non-managed ground, and fence rows all over Central Pennsylvania. (Ironically, tree of heaven and SLF come from the same region over in Asia). There is no need to scout a whole wood lot, just concentrate on this species.

Better yet, consider removing this invasive tree from your property. There is plenty of material online to assist with identification. It can be tricky, as there are some look-alikes out there.

Another invasive that is wreaking havoc in our ecosystem is Japanese knotweed. It is covering riverbank and stream sides at the expense of native trees. Bucknell University researcher Chris Martine thinks that “as mature trees die of natural causes over the next several decades and are not replaced, these systems will shift from tree-dominated riverbank habitats to ‘knotweed-dominated herbaceous shrublands’ incapable of supporting a rich diversity of insects, birds, and other wildlife.”

But Martine has noticed that poison ivy not only competes with this invasive but also can help with the establishment and growth of native trees along our riverbanks. Maybe it is time for landowners to develop respect for poison ivy if they want to maintain a rich diversity of life on their grounds.

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Tom Butzler is a horticulture educator with the Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension Service and may be reached at 570-726-0022.

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