By Kaylee Lindenmuth
This fall, it seems an invasive pest is a prominent sight around the Kutztown area. According to commonwealth officials, this flying insect is a threat to various agricultural industries in Pennsylvania.
The Spotted Lanternfly, or “Lycorma delicatula,” is a native to southeast Asia, specifically China, Bangladesh and Vietnam. It was first discovered in the United States in 2014 in Berks County and has since spread throughout southeastern Pennsylvania.
The grey and red planthopper feeds on the sap of various trees, and it threatens Pennsylvania’s grape, tree-fruit, hardwood, nursery and landscape industries, which “generate agricultural crops and forest products worth nearly $18 billion annually,” according to the Penn State Extension, which has partnered with the commonwealth in handling the invasive insect.
In an attempt to slow or stop the spread of the insect, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture issued a quarantine for much of southeastern Pennsylvania, the Poconos and the Coal Region. In total, 13 counties are quarantined in Pennsylvania, as well as three counties in New Jersey. The quarantine restricts the movement of items in and out of the zone.
KU’s Twitter alerted students to the insect’s presence on campus and their response efforts on August 21.
“They have been damaging fruit trees, grapevines and other types of greenery,” the tweet reads. “The KU Landscape & Logistics staff is treating select trees in high impact areas. As you move around campus, we ask for your patience and cooperation while this matter is being addressed.”
According to Vice President of University Relations Matt Santos, “other than being a nuisance we are not aware of any other adverse impacts.”
“To help control them, we have been treating high impact areas around the South Dining Hall, DMZ and the courtyard at the Student Recreation Center,” Santos added.
According to a news release issued on August 6, 2018, $3 Million of state funding had been allocated to fight the pest, supplementing $17.5 Million from the United States Department of Agriculture.
“We want the public to not only understand the urgency of this problem but also be able to help us in trying to eliminate it,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding in the release. “If people are aware of the pest, and know what it looks like, they can report sightings to us so that we can respond more quickly. If the insect is found someplace outside of the quarantine zone, the sooner we know about it, the sooner we can react and prevent it from spreading.”
The Penn State Extension website regarding the insect suggests that, if it is spotted in a municipality it’s already been found in, “[y]ou should try to kill it.”
“You can kill spotted lanternflies mechanically, by swatting or crushing them,” the website reads. “However, when you threaten them, they are able to quickly jump far away from you, so mechanical control is not easy to achieve.”