State tells public: Stop the lanternfly invasion

— Photo by Lawrence Barringer from the DEC website
The spotted lanternfly looks like this with its wings close. A dead adult was found in New York last fall.

The spotted lanternfly is the latest invasive species in New York.

The state’s departments of Environmental Conservation and Agriculture and Market have started a  campaign to encourage New Yorkers to look for and report sightings of the spotted lanternfly, which was first found in Pennsylvania in 2014.

A single, dead spotted lanternfly adult was found in New York in the fall of 2017.

The invasive pest from Asia feeds on more than 70 plant species including tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), maples, apple trees, grapevine, and hops. Its feedings can stress plants, making them vulnerable to disease and attacks from other insects, according to a release from the DEC.

The public is asked to send pictures and note the location of where the insect, egg masses, or infestation signs are found, to spottedlanternfly@dec.ny.gov.

The department also urges New Yorkers to inspect outdoor items like vehicles and firewood for egg masses. If visiting Pennsylvania or other states with the spotted lanternfly, New Yorkers are encouraged to check equipment and gear before leaving and scrape off any egg masses.

Since it is less expensive and easier to deal with a pest before it becomes widespread, the goal is to find the lanternfly early or prevent it from entering New York altogether. Extensive trapping surveys will be conducted in high-risk areas throughout New York as well as inspections of nursery stock, stone shipments, and commercial transports, from Pennsylvania.

The lanternfly secretes large amounts of sticky “honeydew,” which attracts sooty molds that interfere with plant photosynthesis, reducing fruit yields.

Although native insects also secrete honeydew, the size of the lanternfly and the populations that congregate in an area result in large accumulations of honeydew. The sticky mess and the swarms of insects it attracts can hinder outdoor activities.

In Pennsylvania, where lanternfly populations are the densest, people can’t go outside without getting honeydew on their hair, clothes, and other belongings, according to the DEC release.

Lanternfly nymphs, or young insects, are black with white spots and turn red before transitioning into adults. Adults, which resemble moths, begin to appear in July and are about one-inch long and half-an-inch wide at rest, with eye-catching wings.

Signs of a spotted-lanternfly infestation include:

— Sap oozing or weeping from tiny open wounds on tree trunks, which appear wet and give off fermented odors;  

— One-inch long egg masses that are brownish-gray, waxy, and mud-like when new. Old egg masses are brown and scaly; and

— Massive honeydew build-up under plants, sometimes with black sooty mold.

While the insect can jump and fly short distances, the spotted lanternfly spreads primarily through human activity. They lay their eggs on surfaces including vehicles, stone, rusty metal, outdoor furniture, and firewood. When these items are moved, the insects hitch rides to new areas and therefore are easily transported into New York.

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