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Quarantine Imposed After Invasive Asian Insect Found in Berks
Written by Allison Czapp Correspondent
2014-11-13

                Residents and businesses of five local municipalities are on the front lines of protecting some of the state's major industries from an infestation of a new insect species in the U.S. - the Spotted Lanternfly.

                The invasive pest has been found in District, Hereford, Pike, Rockland and Washington townships, including the boroughs of Bally and Bechtelsville, all of which are now in quarantine. Residents within the quarantine area or traveling to and from the area are urged to be diligent in checking their vehicles and properties for egg masses, particularly along tree lines.

                At a meeting for residents of the quarantine and surrounding areas last Saturday, Sven-Erik Spichiger, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture entomology program manager, spoke about the invasive insect and the steps residents and businesses can take to help eradicate the threat.

                "This one is brand new," he said of the Spotted Lanternfly, native to southeast Asia. "In fact, it's so brand new, it's never been seen in the U.S. before." PDA is still investigating how the bug arrived in the area.

                Authorities were first alerted to the appearance of the lanternfly in late September, when PDA received a call about damage to a tree that was surrounded by bugs and a foul smell. Since then, PDA has been working to develop a plan to combat the pest and to prevent it from becoming the next stink bug.

                "We have a serious problem," Spichiger said, "but it's still small and I think we can deal with it." PDA Plant Inspection Program Specialist Dana Rhodes also expressed hope that the introduction of the species can be contained. "We're trying to limit distribution of the pest ... there is a possibility of eradication," she said.

                The quarantine means that certain objects that would easily transport the pest cannot be moved outside of the affected area unless PDA has inspected the objects and determined they are pest-free, or if they are being transported through the area in such a way that it is unlikely to harbor the pest.

                Items that cannot be moved out of the quarantine area without PDA approval include: brush, debris, bark or yard waste; landscaping remodeling or construction waste; logs stumps or any tree parts; firewood of any species; packing materials like wood crates; all plants and plant parts; and outdoor household objects, like RVs, lawn mowers, chairs, grills, tarps, tile, stone, deck boards and trucks or other vehicles not stored indoors. Fines can be imposed on those who knowingly move quarantine items out of the designated zone.

                In order to move any of the above items out of the quarantine zone, residents or businesses must contact PDA for an inspection and certificate or permit to transport items, or enter into a compliance agreement with the agency that demonstrates an understanding of how to identify the bug and how to ensure it is not being transported outside the quarantine. Residents can also complete a quarantine checklist, available at pda.state.pa.us/SpottedLanternfly.

                "We do not want to stop business; we want to stop the pest," Rhodes emphasized.

                Adult lanternflies are particularly fond of feeding on the Tree of Heaven (also called Paradise Tree or Ailanthus altissima), an invasive plant species that often grows on the edges of woods or roads, and grape vines. However, Spichiger said the insect also feeds on 56 other species of local plants and trees, including fruit bearing trees, hardwoods and ornamentals.

                Spread of the Spotted Lanternfly could have a potentially detrimental effect on some of the state's biggest industries. The state is the No. 1 exporter of hardwoods in the U.S., and fifth in both apples and grapes, a $2.35 billion per year industry. Pennsylvania is also the fourth largest exporter of nursery stock and greenhouse items in the U.S. and is ranked third in state parks.

                In addition, autumn and winter are also seasons where many residents are purchasing firewood; preparing their properties for winter, such as by removing weak trees; and purchasing Christmas trees - all of which are affected by the quarantine. Rhodes said PDA would work with those in affected areas to help ensure their businesses can continue to use practices that are deemed safe, for example, fruit growers who are winter pruning may still be able to mulch their trimmings for use in the quarantine area. Research is underway to determine what chip size is effective in destroying egg masses.

                Currently, no other states have imposed import bans against Pennsylvania products. Rhodes noted that the quarantine already in place shows the state's trade partners that the threat is being taken seriously.

                The adult lanternflies are now dying off, having completed their life cycle. PDA is asking those within the quarantine to search for Spotted Lanternfly egg masses and destroy them before they hatch in the spring Between 30 and 35 eggs are typically laid in rows of four or five eggs (the pattern looks almost like corn on the cob) and then covered with a waxy, mud-like substance. Egg masses can be destroyed by scraping the mass off the tree and placing it in a bottle of alcohol or sealed ziplock bag with some alcohol. Any new locations should be reported to PDA.

                What makes finding the masses so difficult is that they can really be anywhere on or near a tree. When the adult lanternfly falls from a tree while feeding, it will attempt to crawl back up the tree. But at some point, adults dislodged from trees will lay eggs on any smooth surface, such as the wheel wells of a vehicle or rocks near the base of a tree. The eggs were able to survive last year's harsh winter, so frigid temperatures are not expected to eliminate the problem.

                While a community-based approach to making a dent in the Spotted Lanternfly population through egg scraping is underway, PDA is working with other state and federal agencies and institutions to develop a strategy for dealing with the pest when eggs hatch in the springtime. Possible eradication strategies include removing Ailanthus trees, identifying potential natural predators (currently there are none known), banding plants and vines with a sticky substance that would trap the pest, and evaluating pesticides. There are no approved pesticides for Spotted Lanternfly and it is illegal to use pesticides off-label. Use of pesticides to eliminate the bugs could also be damaging to beneficial insects, like pollinators, that are attracted to the weeping sap on damaged trees.

                Additional information is available online at pda.state.pa.us/SpottedLanternfly.


 

 

 

 

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