Plague of Asian spotted lanternflies invade 14 states, decimating crops, costing taxpayers MILLIONS

Destructive insects from Asia have invaded 14 U.S. states, costing millions in eradication and crop loss.

The spotted lanternfly, believed to have entered the U.S. in egg masses on a stone shipment, were first found in Pennsylvania in 2014, costing the state $50 million annually, but experts predict the cost will soon reach $324 million.

“The multi-colored bug, with spots on its back, is known to devour more than 70 types of fruits, trees and plants, leaving behind inch-long, putty-like egg masses and a sticky ‘honeydew’ resin often covered in toxic black mold that slowly weakens vegetation,” the Daily Mail reported.

Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia have adopted varying techniques to fight the infestations that have been likened to end of days or the “Plague of Egypt, as one Twitter user noted.

“New York is another going into battle against the tree-eating pests, as Senator Chuck Schumer secured $200 million in funds last month to contain the population that threatens the state’s $6.65 billion wine and grape industry,” the Daily Mail reported.

New York reported a 100 percent increase in sightings in 2022 over 2021 and shows infestations in all 62 counties, impacting not only the grape industry but other crops, as well, including the apple industry, “which contributes $1.3 billion in total economic output, provides more than 8,000 jobs, and produces nearly $4 million in gross domestic product to its economy,” according to the Daily Mail.

Schumer, seeking an additional $22 million in federal funding to protect the state’s farms and vineyards, said “these crops are vital to the continued economic success of New York and it is imperative the federal government provides all necessary resources to control the spread of spotted lanternflies and protect these iconic New York’s industries.”

Ohio, which experienced its first infestation in 2020, has allocated $230,000 for eradication treatments this year, hoping to stem the tide before crop loss becomes an issue.

The pests are drawn to the Tree of Heaven, an urban tree species known for its ability to survive harsh conditions, but these tiny savages may be their kryptonite, according to Dan Kenny, plant health division chief for the Department of Agriculture of Ohio.

The insects have invaded 45 of 67 counties in Pennsylvania, where a 2019 economic impact study estimates that, uncontrolled, could cost the state $324 million annually and more than 2,800 jobs, the Daily Mail reported.

In 2021, the state reported 42,343 sightings of the pest which have cost farmers and forest landowners $29 million in direct costs.

In Connecticut, where the bugs have been reported in four counties since first being sighted in 2020, officials are asking the public to squash the bugs on sight.

Because of the bugs’ varied tastes, nearly 50 percent of all forest trees in North America are at risk of decimation, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection warns.

Delaware, where officials scraped 2 million eggs from trees this year, has quarantined all counties and asked residents to remove Tree of Heaven from their properties.

“Any person conducting business for a commercial company, a municipality, or a government agency that requires movement of any regulated item within or from the quarantine area must have a permit,” according to the Delaware Department of Agriculture.

Maryland has deployed traps to control the invasive species first sighted in the state in 2018.

‘The primary problem with it is it’s an agricultural pest,” said Kenton Sumpter, an entomologist with the Department of Agriculture, “Luckily, what we found is that it’s not attacking a ton of commodities. Our worries are still for vineyards, orchards and nurseries.”

Massachusetts will spend its $119,000 in federal funding to survey the species and hopes pheromone-baited traps will keep the pests from becoming an issue.

North Carolina reported its first sighting in June but believes the colony encompassing a 5-mile-radius in Kernersville has been hiding for years and worries the lanternfly will impact wine and beer production if it spreads to grape and hops fields.

Michigan officials have declared the state “at risk” following the detection of the state’s first live colony in August. The Oakland County infestation is believed to be contained after Tree of Heaven trees were sprayed with pesticide.

New Jersey, home to more than 9,771 farms that cover 715,057 acres of land, has reported no significant damage from the spotted lanternfly. They will use $42,289 of their $292,298 in federal funding for detection dogs, a method that has proven successful in Pennsylvania.

Officials “ask residents to continue to stomp on them, spray them or use any means necessary to kill the pests,” the Daily Mail reported.

Rhode Island has identified patches of the insect along a highway in Smithfield, deemed the first population of spotted lanternfly in the state, and officials are working with the University of Rhode Island on mitigation strategies.

Several counties in Virginia and West Virginia are so infested officials are no longer asking residents to report sightings.

“To slow the spread of the spotted lanternfly, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services established a quarantine for Albemarle, Augusta, Carroll, Clarke, Frederick, Page, Prince William, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Warren and Wythe Counties, and the Cities of Buena Vista, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Lynchburg, Manassas, Manassas Park, Staunton, Waynesboro and Winchester,” the Daily Mail reported.

“We do advise folks to kill whatever they can, if they can,” said Emily Morrow, the West Virginia University Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension agent in Jefferson County. “If you find egg masses in the fall and winter months, if you can scrape those off and apply rubbing alcohol, which will keep the eggs from hatching.”

Neighboring states where the insects have yet to travel are also asking residents to kill on sight and report to local officials immediately.


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