A PHD student told me previously, the key to this problem is managing the population of the Spotted Lanternfly, since it would be a challenge to exterminate it outright.
The State Agriculture Secretary shares the same sense of seriousness this invasive species poses.
“Pennsylvania was the epicenter of the spotted Lanternfly. The first time, uh, identified in America was in Berks County in 2014, 15. And we did not know the full impact of that invasive pest, but what we have learned is that it’s invasive in every way. It’s an invasive socially, economically, and agriculturally. And certainly, it is environmentally invasive, as well.”
The Spotted Lanternfly has spread to nine states and 45 Pennsylvania Counties, since then. The counties in our region under quarantine for the bug are Blair, Cambria, Cameron, Centre, Bedford, and Huntingdon.
“As much as we know about the spotted Lanternfly, there’s also a lot that we don’t know, and we continue to learn every season about this invasive pest.”
And one of those people learning more about the Spotted Lanternfly is Anne Johnson.
“And the main thing we’re worried about them on here in Pennsylvania is actually grape. So, they can lead to yield losses. So, loss in your grape production and potentially some other effects such as opening plants up to attacks from other pathogens past things like that.”
She’s getting her PHD in Entomology from Penn State and has spent years looking into this species. She tells me how these critters wreak havoc on agriculture, one of the state’s most vital industries.
“It can be quite destructive if it’s left unmanaged. For example, we had reports of some vineyards when it first came in, where they were even like losing their plants, losing like 90% of their grape yields. It is if you are willing to use chemical controls, actually fairly easy to manage in an agricultural setting, it’s, it’s susceptible to most pesticides. So, we’re not quite as worried now, what is concerning is in situations where you either do not want to, or are unable to use, pesticides to manage these guys. We don’t really have good alternative tactics right now, so that’s when they can become quite problematic.”
Johnson’s been working on a Spotted Lanternfly Project for a while now.
“So, the project I’m doing right now is looking into predators of spotted Lanternfly here in North America, in the United States.”
And she says that to learn how to manage a population, you have to know the subject’s predators.
“What we’re hoping to get out of my project is by knowing what predators feed on spotted Lanternfly that can actually help us somewhat in developing management strategies called biological control, which is where you manage a pest through, um, uh, it’s through predators and things like diseases and living things, um, to help control your populations. So, with my project, once we know what is feeding on spotted Lanternfly here, we can do things like modify landscaping and habitats to encourage those predators. And then they’ll bring our spotted lantern fly populations down.”
You can help by submitting reports of a predator you see feeding on Spotted Lantern Fly, where it was, and what sort of behaviors it displays while feeding.