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NYS moves to halt the migration of lanternflies

Heather Leach.

Over the summer, Spotted lanternflies were sighted in Broome, Chemung, Cortland and, most recently, Tompkins Counties. Possessing a voracious appetite, the biggest concerns with the spotted lanternfly are their impacts on fruit trees, maples and especially on vineyards.

They cannot survive our winter, but their eggs can. So New York officials, who are working to prevent an established infestation in the region, are searching for egg masses where the lanternfly has been sighted.

It’s tricky work. The eggs can be laid on almost anything.

Chris Logue, who directs Plant Industry at the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets, feels optimistic.

“So in the Tompkins County situation, we do think we’re pretty early in the infestation. I think we have a very good opportunity to eradicate or at least manage it and slow the spread.”

Not many egg masses have been found yet, and that’s a good sign. New York likely won’t see an infestation for a few years, but it’s on borrowed time. Experts say the pest is in the United States to stay and better control methods are needed.

Before it showed up in Pennsylvania in 2014, next to nothing was known about the spotted lanternfly. 

Heather Leach, who’s a spotted lanternfly specialist with Penn State, said it’s a hard pest to study.

“To keep it alive in the lab is really, really difficult — nearly impossible at this point. So we just have trouble gaining predictability with this pest,” she said.

Leach and her crew killed over 46,000 Lanternflies in their 2020 field season. One trend Leach has identified is in their appetites.

“We can kind of really think of the landscape as a buffet for them," Leach said. "If you happen to have a maple tree, or grapevines growing as a part of a vineyard, and they’re very attracted to feeding on them they will just keep coming.”

Leach and her team used spatial mapping to predict the lanternfly’s path of invasion into a vineyard, and with that knowledge, they designed an experiment to kill them.

“So we built about 200 foot long about 14 feet high and covered that with this netting that’s been treated with insecticide and it kills lanternflies very effectively,” Leach explained.

It’s essentially a poison wall. The wall can help keep spotted lanternfly from coming onto farmland, but it won’t protect the natural environment.

State researchers rely on the public to report lanternfly sightings. To learn how to help, search for the Spotted Lanternfly page on the DEC’s website.

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