Hello fellow readers,
Just recently there’s been two sightings of the dreaded Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) in New Jersey, a topic of great concern at the NJ Plants Trade Show held in Edison NJ on January 31st. “It’s a very bad bug,” stressed Paul Kurtz, Entomologist of the NJ State Department of Agriculture (NJDA). Many folks on the PA side of the Delaware River have seen them swarming cars, gas station walls, and farm fields. Since the first documented sighting in 2014 outside of Philadelphia, they have exponentially multiplied and infested eastern Pennsylvania. In fact, thirteen counties are quarantine areas which means no lumber, firewood, construction or plant debris, nursery stock, or cut trees, for example, should be moved out of the quarantined counties.
Paul Kurtz explained the first reported finding in NJ was an adult Lycorma delicatula found in leaflitter on a grain farm in Asbury (Warren County). The second sighting were nymphs found on a Christmas tree inside a home in Alpha NJ, just outside of Phillipsburg. “We have been proactively working on this,” Paul explained, diligently searching for evidence of SLF and planning control strategies. The current and potential impact across industries such as orchards, vineyards, grain farms, and nurseries is enormous. There was even talk at the NJ Plants show that spotted lanternfly may be devastating to horses if ingested in their grain, though the PA Department of Agriculture awaits research to confirm this concern, per Bonnie McCann Communications Director.
In their countries of origin, China, India, and Vietnam, they have natural predators and pathogens that control the populations. Not so here. The phloem-feeding bug with piercing mouthparts suck branches of plants including hardwood and fruit trees, grapes, blueberries, and hops. In a recent PA State Senate meeting (10/18/17), a Pike County orchard and vineyard owner spoke about his $400,000 revenue loss as each of his seventy acres of grapes only yielded one to one-and-a-half ton of grapes versus the normal four-and-a-half ton. The farmer went on to explain, while SLF don’t yet eat the apples as they do the grapes, they feed on the terminal end growth which sets the fruit buds for next year.
Primarily a planthopper, though it can fly, the attractive adults are about an inch long with black heads, black spotted greyish wings, and bodies that appear to have a reddish glow. The wingless nymphs, which hatch in late April to early May, are black with white spots. From fall until winter they lay their eggs, preferably on the non-native invasive Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), though any smooth surface such as rocks, cars, trailers, outdoor furniture, RVs, and farm equipment will do, hence the rapid spread across counties which could easily become across states. Each female lays thirty to fifty eggs in each of three egg masses. Whoa!
We all can do our part to prevent the spread by checking for the yellowish-brown waxy egg masses, especially on vehicles before traveling, and removing them by scraping them into a zip lock bag filled with alcohol or hand sanitizer and tossing them in the trash. Be sure to report findings to your state Department of Agriculture. This is a very bad bug indeed. Garden Dilemmas? Askmarystone@gmail.com
If you spot evidence of Spotted Lanternfly in NJ or PA: Report findings to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call 866-253-7189. The NJ Department of Agriculture, Division of Plant Industry number is (609) 406-6939.