On March 3, it was announced that twelve counties were being added to Pennsylvania’s Spotted Lanternfly Quarantine Zone, which brings the total number of counties under quarantine to 26 – including Cumberland and Dauphin Counties, which are in our service area.
According to Penn State the insect is a threat to the region’s agricultural industries, and a recent study places “current economic damages due to the pest at $50.1 million per year with a lost of 484 jobs in the southeastern part of the state.”
And its rapid spread and devastation is especially impressive given that the insect was only first identified in Berks County back in 2014.
The threat posed by the Spotted Lanternfly is serious enough that intentionally transporting or relocating one is considered a serious criminal offence.
Here is a look at why the Spotted Lanternfly is so problematic, what the quarantine means for businesses operating in affected areas, and the preventative/suppressive strategies that CVTS-L uses to halt its spread.
Why is the Spotted Lanternfly so problematic?
- It has no natural predators in this area.
The Spotted Lanternfly is native to China, India and Vietnam where it presumably has natural predators that keep its population growth in check. Unfortunately, we imported the Spotted Lanternfly but not the predator, which means there is nothing in the local ecosystem to restore and maintain the balance.
- It can feed on a wide variety of trees and plants.
While the Spotted Lanternfly has a preference for Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), it will feed on more then 70-plus host plants. Throughout its lifecycle, the Spotted Lanternfly can be found anywhere in the landscape from turf to shrubs to trees. It is easier to preventatively treat for single-tree species such as Hemlock Wooly Adelgid.
- It inflicts multiple sources of damage to trees and plants.
Spotted Lanternflies feed on the sap of their host plants and leave behind a sticky residue. The wounds that are created cause further stress to the plants and leave them vulnerable to other insects. The sticky residue promotes the growth of black sooty mold that is unsightly and can spread to patio furniture, siding, decks and paved surfaces.
What does the quarantine mean for businesses and homeowners operating in affected areas?
- Businesses may need a permit.
In May of last year, Pennsylvania State Police began checking and enforcing Spotted Lanternfly permits. The permits are required for any “business, agencies, and organizations” who travel in and out of the quarantine area. Permits are conditional on the completion of either in-person or online training that explains how to identify, safeguard from and dispose of Spotted Lanternflies. Permits are reciprocated across state lines, so, for example, our Pennsylvania permit would be honored at our Maryland office. At CVTS-L, our own Jamey Schwartz has taken the training to obtain the permit.
Currently, the requirements for companies like CVTS-L to operate in quarantine zones include:
- Keeping plant debris within the quarantine zone
- Leaving all plant debris and wood chips on the site where it originated (If this isn’t feasible, they recommend finding a disposal facility within the quarantine zone; wood chips can be hauled out if they are no larger than one inch in two dimensions, but it is still preferred that they remain on the property of origin)
- Inspecting vehicles for all stages of the Spotted Lanternfly before they can leave the quarantine (inspections must be documented and all documentation must be kept for two years)
- Carrying the Spotted Lanternfly permit in every company vehicle that enters the quarantine zone (applies to sales vehicles and work trucks)
The requirements and obligations within quarantine zones are subject to change as the situation develops, and we always remain current and update.
- Businesses and homeowners should conduct regular inspections.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has issued a detailed checklist for residents in quarantine areas. The checklist includes camping/recreational, household, building materials, yard/garden items and children’s playthings.
If during the inspections a Spotted Lanternfly is discovered people should:
- Place in a sealed bag
- Dispose of bag in the garbage
Are there any preventative/suppressive treatments that can help prevent the Lanternfly’s spread?
- Set a trap.
One effective removal technique is to remove the majority of the Ailanthus trees on a property and treat the remaining trees with a systemic insecticide. The Lanternflies will naturally concentrate on the remaining treated trees and take the bait.
- Deploy systemic insecticides.
Another technique is to get ahead of the problem by applying insecticide on susceptible trees and shrubs in order to control the nymph stages. This can also be used on adult-stage Lanternflies, but their behavior is less predictable and the damage may have already been done to the tree at that point.
- Scrape, squash and report.
In the words of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, “…we need every Pennsylvania to keep their eyes peeled for signs of this bad bug – to scrape every egg mass, squash every bug, and report every sighting.”
Spotted Lanternfly is already a serious problem in our area, and, without proper vigilance, the situation will likely get worse before it gets better.
However, through careful inspections, proactive treatments and reporting, it is possible to slow – and even halt – the westward progression of the Spotted Lanternfly.
We recommend following Penn State Extension for the latest information regarding the Spotted Lanternfly as they provide the best and most current information available.