Grapevine Pest Expands in Pennsylvania

Spotted lanternfly quarantine extended to parts of four additional counties

by Linda Jones McKee
wine spotted lanternfly pennsylvania vineyard quarrantine
Adult spotted lanternflies have colorful hind wings. Photo: Holly Raguza, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Harrisburg, Pa.—When the discovery of a new invasive species, the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) was first confirmed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) in September 2014, the insect had been found only in Berks County. Five townships and two municipalities were placed under quarantine in November of that year in an attempt to restrict the spread to other areas of the Asian plant hopper known to feed on the sap of grapevines, fruit trees and hardwoods.

In spite of the quarantine, an allocation of almost $1.5 million through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Bill and the efforts of volunteer groups to band trees and scrape off egg masses from trees or smooth surfaces, the spotted lanternfly (SLF) has spread into four more counties in Pennsylvania. As a result, the PDA announced in early July that the SLF quarantine area was being redefined to include areas in Berks, Bucks, Chester, Lehigh and Montgomery counties, where populations of the insect had been found.

    Quarantined Areas

    Municipalities in blue were included in the quarantine established in 2014.

    Berks County: Amity Township, Oley Township, Rockland Township, Longswamp Township, Earl Township, Pike Township, District Township, Douglass Township, Colebrookdale Township, Washington Township, Hereford Township, Topton Borough, Bally Borough, Betchelsville Borough and Boyertown Borough.

    Bucks County: Milford Township, Trumbauersville Borough.

    Chester County: South Coventry Township.

    Lehigh County: Lower Macungie Township, Alburtis borough, Macungie borough.

    Montgomery County: Douglass Township, Upper Hanover Township, New Hanover Township, East Greenville Borough, Pennsburg Borough, Red Hill Borough.
“While no one wants to hear that there are additional findings, this affirms that our surveillance efforts are working,” said Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “It is extremely difficult to eradicate these pests, but thanks to the ongoing survey efforts and commitment by local, state and community members, who have been working together continuously to find the pest in the early stages, we are minimizing the impact of the species. New detections allow the control program to target its outreach and control efforts, working to end the spread of the insect.”

A plant hopper that is native to China, India, Japan and Vietnam, the SLF prefers to feed on the sap of grapevines, apple and stone fruit trees, and hardwood trees including maple. They have also been found on Ailanthus altissima, an invasive sumac-like tree also known as Tree of Heaven, a fast-growing deciduous tree that is frequently found along roadsides in Pennsylvania. According to the PDA, adult SLF prefer the Tree of Heaven “as their primary food source, mating and egg-laying location.” The 1-inch-long insect uses its piercing-sucking mouthparts to feed on the sap, and excretes a fluid that coats leaves and stems and encourages the growth of mold.

Part of the funds from the Farm Bill were made available to the PDA to implement control and perform survey work of the SLF. The balance of the grant went to Kutztown University, Penn State University and North Carolina State University to conduct research on the range of the pest, its impact on grapes and an analysis of its DNA. Penn State also received a grant to perform outreach and extension work. Because it was determined that brown sticky tree bands are an effective and environmentally friendly way to catch SLF nymphs in the spring, a volunteer tree banding program was established for owners of infested properties. In addition, two-person PDA crews have banded properties in the quarantined areas.

Richard Blair, owner of Blair Vineyards in Kutztown, Pa., has two vineyard locations in Berks County, with a total of approximately 30 acres. Blair told Wines & Vines that he has seen some SLF at his vineyard in Rockland Township, one of the municipalities on the northwest side of the original quarantine zone. “We’ve done banding and capture for the last two years, and we found some (SLF) near the vineyard. We haven’t seen any damage in the vineyard; maybe it’s too early. However, Sevin will control SLF on vines, and we spray Sevin two times per year anyway, so that may help.”

He has not found any SLF in or near his Greenwich Vineyard, which is located around his winery in Kutztown. “The wind blows from northwest and carries them to the southeast,” Blair said, “and that’s where a lot of the SLF are going. They seem to be mostly moving east, not west.”

While SLF are primarily hopping insects, the adults can fly short distances according to Blair. “I’ve also seen one land on my car to go for a ride,” he noted. That mode of transportation could potentially carry the pests considerably farther than hopping.

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