I don’t want to be accused of being too technical, and please forgive me, but we do have a serious economic agricultural problem with an invasive pest: the Spotted Lanternfly.

If we don’t control it, it will kill us.

Presently a quarantine area exists in Pennsylvania covering the Delaware River west to the Susquehanna River, with not quite all counties being affected. Thirteen counties in southeastern Pennsylvania are now under quarantine for this insect. However, major economic damage has been happening and crops are being lost. One grower alone is reporting going from 150 tons of grapes annual average harvest to less than 5 tons this year. Grape price are skyrocketing, where the grapes are available. Some vines are dying completely due to their inability to overwinter after infestation. And grapevines are not just the only crop being affected: up to $1 BILLION plus in potential damage to Pennsylvania agriculture alone, if we do not stop this pest.

The spotted lanternfly’s preferred host is an oriental Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) and grapevines. It feeds on grapevines by piercing the vines and feeding on the phloem and xylem (fluid and nutrient transporting tissues). This feeding causes intracellular damage as the insects siphon vast amounts from the phloem which drastically reduces the vine’s health and vigor. The insects excrete “honeydew” and the feeding sites leak sap, which causes sooty mold to form on the plant’s leaves, reducing photosynthesis (sugar-making capability) of the plant. The sap also attracts wasps and bees. The wounds make the host plants more susceptible to disease. Insect feeding is damaging as there is a constant inflow of insects from surrounding wooded areas. The insect eventually lays eggs at the end of the season, and the adult insects die. When you discover them, remove and destroy the egg masses immediately.

SO: Kill the beasts. Report the beasts. DO NOT TRANSPORT EGG MASSES OF THE BEASTS. Please go online to visit PENN STATE UNIVERSITY website and learn what this pest looks like.

Enjoy your wine (while you still have it) in good health!

Steve Bahn