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USDA Allocating Money to Combat Spotted Lanternfly
Written by Bradley Schlegel

            The federal government is providing $17.5 million in emergency funding to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to stop the spread of the spotted lanternfly in the southeastern region of the Commonwealth.

            Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its intent to deliver the funds to help Pennsylvania officials protect the region's agricultural and forested lands from the damaging effects of the spotted lanternfly, which feeds on more than 70 types of plants and secretes a sticky residue on leaves that can lead to the growth of sooty mold fungus affecting overall plant health.

            This emergency funding, made available through existing Commodity Credit Corporation balances, will allow for a two-pronged approach. The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will manage the outer perimeter of the infestation, while the state agency will focus on a 3-mile perimeter surrounding the core infested area.

            The goal of this expanded surveillance and control program is to stop the leading edge of the infestation and start pushing it inward while at the same time reducing the density of spotted lanternfly populations in the core-infested area, according to a Feb. 7 news release from the federal agency.

            "We've seen a dramatic expansion in the range of this pest over the last year and we need to take decisive action to prevent the spotted lanternfly from spreading throughout Pennsylvania and into neighboring states," said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, in the prepared statement.

            The program will be implemented in the spring, before the pest becomes active in warmer weather, in order to prevent a larger infestation, according to Abbey Powell, a public affairs specialist with the USDA.

            The spotted lanternfly, with its distinctive and colorful wings, was first identified in Pennsylvania in 2014 on the border of Pike and District townships in Berks County, according to Emelie Swackhamer, a horticulture educator at the Penn State's Montgomery County Extension near Skippack. The affected area expanded to 174 square miles in 2016, then to approximately 3,000 square miles by the following year.

            The USDA has allocated $8.7 million to conduct a detection survey and control survey within a 15-mile buffer area surrounding the outer perimeter of the outbreak. An additional $7.5 million will be spent to conduct treatment activities within a three-mile perimeter surrounding the core infested area. The remaining $1.3 million will be utilized to expand outreach and public education efforts, according to Powell.

            The treatment activities will include the use of insecticides and herbicides to treat the pest and its primary host—the invasive tree of heaven.  Research indicates this tree may be needed for the SLF to complete its lifecycle, according to an email from Powell.

            According to Swackhamer, the idea is to establish multiple trap trees across the entire area. She said the method of treating the trees with a systemic insecticide, which the state agency has been utilizing since 2015, seems to be very effective.

            "The lanternflies feed on the trap trees and die," Swackhamer said Tuesday.

             In addition to emergency activities in Pennsylvania, the federal agency is            planning to use existing resources to conduct surveys, and control measures if necessary, in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Virginia, where there is growing concern about the potential spread of spotted lanternfly, according to the USDA release.





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