Experts working on plan to eradicate invasive Spotted Lanternfly

Published: Aug. 22, 2018 at 5:30 PM EDT
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The Spotted Lanternfly was

, near Winchester in Frederick County, months ago.

Experts are developing a plan to eradicate the invasive insect, which feeds on expensive crops like fruit, hops, and grapes used for wine.

The zone the insect has been found in has been slightly expanded recently, so they're trying to kill it before it continues to spread further.

The plan is to remove most of the "Tree of Heaven" (or ailanthus), its main host plant, but leave a few larger trees and treat them with insecticide.

"When the Lanternflies begin to collect on Tree of Heaven, they'll pick up the insecticide and be killed. That should lead at least to a big reduction, local reduction of the population. The goal is to eradicate it from the state," said Doug Pfeiffer, a professor of entomology at Virginia Tech.

He says a main problem is that the insect has no real natural enemies. Spiders and praying mantis eat it, but not enough to significantly reduce their population. A promising new predator has been brought over from China and is in quarantine, but it will be a few years before testing is over and it can be released.

Why a species from China? The Lanternfly is native to China, India, and Vietnam. It first showed up in the U.S. in 2014 at a stone yard in Pennsylvania.

Other states, like Pensylvania, have larger problems with the Lanternfly. They did not discover it for years after it was already there, so it is much more widespread and has caused significant loss of certain crops. Pfeiffer says the chance of eradicating it in Virginia is higher because it was discovered here early.

He says to kill the insect, but don't stop there. Reporting it is extremely important for helping them track the insect's spread.

The adults are described as one-inch long and a half-inch wide at rest. The forewing is grey with black spots. The hind wings have contrasting patches of red and black with a white band.

He says if you think you've seen a lanternfly to report it online


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