States in the eastern region of the United States are plagued by spotted lanternflies, which came from China and could cost the nation dearly as their infestation targets agricultural staples such as apples and grapes and spell trouble for loggers.
States already in danger include Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia. The first report of a lanternfly in the U.S. was made in Pennsylvania in 2014.
Dan Kenny of the Department of Agriculture of Ohio, declaredis sneaky. It moves around on products, cars and even rail cars. There is just so much opportunity for it to spread naturally or hitchhike.”
“We’ve seen it in hops, we’ve seen it in some of the grain crops that are out there, soybean and what have you,” Pennsylvania’s deputy secretary of agriculture said in 2018. “It’s able to feed on many, many different things.”
“It’s not just an agriculture problem, this is truly an across-the-board commerce problem, because we are trying not to move it,” he added. “This is everyday people, this is the trucking company, the U.P.S. driver, the delivery guy.”
The flies emerge in late April until October; any surviving insects freeze to death in the winter. They feed mainly on Ailanthus, the “tree of heaven.”
The lanternfly eats over 70 types of fruits, trees and plants. A 2019 study asserted that the insect could cost Pennsylvania $324 million annually and over 2,800 jobs.
Maryland’s Department of Agriculture lists plants including grapes, black walnut, red maple, silver maple, eastern white pine, weeping willow, black willow, black cherry, sycamore as targets of the lanternfly. Meanwhile multiple counties in New York have reported seeing the insect, which presents a major problem, as its wine and grape industry engenders $6.65 billion annually along with 71,000 jobs.
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection claimed 47% of all forest trees in their state might be under siege from the insect.
“The speed that these things can attack a grape vineyard is pretty dramatic,” Jayson Harper, professor of agricultural economics at Penn State, explained. “The problem with grapes are they are very expensive to establish, and you think they will grow for twenty, thirty, forty years. It’s not like corn where, ‘I had a bad crop this year, but I’ll plant again next year.’”
An interactive map from New York State Integrated Management that was supplied by state regulatory agencies shows the affected counties across the nation.