The Lanternfly Invasion
Laternflies, named because of their resemblance to Chinese lanterns, are a bizarre invasive pest from Asia that's spreading across the U.S. and causing billions of dollars in damage to crops, forests, orchards and vineyards.
First identified in Pennsylvania in 2014, the lanternfly has continued to increase in population with no real foolproof method of eliminating the pest. It's predicted that the lanternfly will threaten to harm more plants and crops than the brown marmorated stink bug, which is a nuisance in 43 states.
The spotted lanternfly, lycorma delicatula, resembles a moth-like insect about an inch long and a half-inch wide. The nymphs look like shiny, overgrown ticks, with black bodies and white spots (shown in image D below). As they grow into adults, their wings develop into a drab white exterior with black spots and bright red underside. They have a yellow potbellied abdomen marked by horizontal black bands (shown in images A, B, C below).
Lanternfly Life Cycle
Adult lanternflies flourish in October, with egg laying beginning in September and sometimes continuing into December. If the temperatures remain warm enough, the egg laying season is extended, which is of particular concern as the invasion moves towards southern states with more temperate winters. In May, lanterfly larvae hatch in groups of 30 to 50.
The egg masses resemble splotches of mud with a waxy covering (shown in image H above). They are commonly attached to trunks, but can really be found on anything, including vehicles, bags and totes. Officials advise close inspection of people, belongings and vehicles, especially if traveling through affected counties as humans are some of the biggest carriers of the bugs.
Lanternflies move in hordes, meaning if you spot one, there are likely hundreds, or thousands nearby. They overwhelm trees and plants, gorging on sap, and distributing a glutinous substance that disrupts photosynthesis and kills the plants. The sheer numbers in the hordes is, in part, what makes lanternflies so dangerous and difficult to combat.
With a large appetite and varied palate, lanternflies are not discriminate "eaters". Grapes, apples, cherries, peaches, plums, hops, birches, oaks, pines, and an invasive species of tree originating from China called the tree of heaven are all highly susceptible. They dine by sucking the nutrient-rich sap from the plant trunks, so it won't appear at first glance that the plants have been attacked. As they suck out the sap, they excrete a sticky substance called "honeydew" (which has no relation to honeydew melons). Honeydew spreads to the nearby plants, choking out the photosynthesis process. It also sticks to just about anything else, including vehicles, people, outdoor furniture, and attracts other pests.
Several counties in Pennsylvania, as well as three in New Jersey, have been quarantined and many other states are taking steps to putting protective measures in place, including the requirement for permitting and proof of identification ability. Check with your state's Department of Agriculture for special new rules that may affect your business and industry, especially in Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and surrounding states. Michigan is also watching the infestation closely due to several thousand acres of blueberry and cherry crops.
Fighting the Lanternfly Invasion
The best current methods of fighting the lanternflies include hypervigilance and scorched-earth gardening. If you happen to spot an egg mass, authorities suggest gently scraping it into a plastic bag filled with hand sanitizer. Use a credit card or something similarly thin, and scrape very gently. Breaking the mass will cause the eggs to scatter.
Chopping and burning all trees of the heaven has helped in some areas as well. Spraying with a systemic called imidacloprid, which has been been effective on other sucking insects, such as moths and beetles, is being evaluated for its usefulness against the lanternflies.
If you need assistance with selecting the right spray equipment, parts and accessories for fighting the lanternfly invasion, please give us a call or email us.
Reference: America Isn't Ready for the Lanternfly Invasion, Bloomberg Businessweek
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