SPOTTED LANTERNFLY POPULATION EXPLODING ACROSS THE TRI-STATE

You’re probably spotting – and maybe stomping – spotted lanternflies everywhere these days.  These insects are not dangerous to humans or pets — they don’t bite or sting, and they aren’t venomous.  But they do pose a serious risk to agriculture:  New York vineyards and orchards stand to lose millions if the pest is not contained.  Julie Urban, associate professor at Penn State’s entomology department, and Alejandro Calixto, director of the New York State Integrated Pest Management program at Cornell University, explain what to do if you encounter spotted lanternflies, and what the state is doing to control the problem.

Aired on September 21, 2022

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

THE SPOTTED LANTERN FLIES SEEM TO BE EVERYWHERE THESE CASE, AND THE STATE WANTS YOU TO STOMP THEM ON SIGHT.

THE INVASIVE SPECIES THAT'S BEEN THREADING WHY OUR REGION OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS HAS REACHED LEVELS OF INFESTATION, AND EXPERTS WARN THAT THEY NOT ONLY ARE THREATENING LOCAL AGRICULTURE BUT COULD CAUSE LOCAL BUSINESSES TO LOSE MILLIONS.

SO WHAT DO THESE DISTINCTIVELY LOOKING BUGS, WHY ARE THEY SO HARMFUL, AND CAN THE INFESTATION BE STOMPED OUT ONE BUG AT A TIME?

JOINING ME ARE TWO EXPERTS WHO KNOW ALL ABOUT THE SPOTTED LANTERN FLIES.

THEY ARE, THERE IS THE DIRECTOR OF THE NEW YORK STATE INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT PROGRAM AT CORNELL UNIVERSITY.

ALEJANDRO, WELCOME, AND THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ON 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU.

ANY TIME.

THANK YOU FOR THE INVITATION.

ABSOLUTELY.

AND I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO WELCOME JULIE IRVIN, WHO IS A RESEARCHER AT PENN STATE.

PENNSYLVANIA IS CONSIDERED GROUND ZERO OF THE LANTERN FLY INVASION IN THE U.S.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

GREAT TO BE HERE, JENNA.

JULIE, I'M GOING TO START WITH YOU.

CONSIDERING THAT PENNSYLVANIA, AS I JUST MENTIONED, IS CONSIDERED GROUND ZERO, WHAT EXACTLY ARE THESE BUGS AND WHAT DIFFERENTIATES THEM FROM THE OTHER NUISANCES THAT WE DEAL WITH IN THE WARMER MONTHS?

THESE INSECTS ARE NOT FLIES AT ALL.

THAT'S JUST A COMMON NAME FOR THEM.

THEY'RE PLANT HOPPERS.

THE CLOSEST RELATIVES ARE CICADAS.

THEY HAVE THEIR MOUTH PARTS FUSED INTO A STRAW-LIKE BEAK AND INSERT THAT INTO PLANT TISSUE.

THEY SLURP UP THE PLANT SAP SPECIFICALLY.

AND SO THEY'RE DIFFERENT THAN SOMETHING LIKE A STINK BUG THAT WAS AN INVASIVE THAT HIT A FEW YEARS AGO, THAT IN TERMS OF IMPACTS ON GRAPES, IT DOESN'T PENETRATE THE FRUIT, IT CAN'T PENETRATE HUMAN SKIN, BUT WILL PENETRATE THE PLANT TISSUE AND FEED ON THAT.

FOR ANYONE WATCHING, IF YOU'RE ALL LIKE ME, I SHOULD HAVE GIVEN THE DISCLAIMER, IF YOU'RE NOT A BUG PERSON, I'M GOING TO GET SQUEAMISH HERE.

ALEJANDRO, I WANT TO TRY TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IS THE DAMAGE THAT THESE BUGS CAN DO TO PLANTS?

RIGHT.

LIKE JULIE SAID, I REALLY THINK IT'S AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR THE BUG, THIS INSECT DOESN'T BITE OR SING.

THEY'RE SAP FEEDING INSECTS, SO THEY'RE FEEDING ON THE LIQUIDS OF THE PLANT.

SO FOR A LARGE TREE, YOU GET INSECTS LIKE THIS ONE, THEY CAN DEBILITATE THE TREE, BUT FOR A VINE LIKE GRAPES, THEY DON'T HAVE THAT MUCH LIQUID.

SO IF YOU GET A HEAVY INFESTATION OF THESE INSECTS ON THESE PLANTS, THAT CAN DEVASTATE THE PLANT AND CAUSE SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE.

THE OTHER THING THAT JULY YEAH WAS MENTIONING, BECAUSE THEY'RE FEEDING ON THESE LIQUIDS, IT'S BASICALLY AN INSECT URINE THAT THEY FEED ON.

I KNOW YOU'RE GROSSING YOU OUT.

WHAT IT DOES, IT'S REALLY SWEET.

YOU CAN TASTE IT, IT TASTES LIKE SUGAR.

AND IT PROMOTES THE GROWTH OF A MOLD.

SO THAT MOLD ACTUALLY REDUCES THE AREA FOR THE LEAVES TO DO PHOTO SYNTHESIS.

SO IT REALLY DEBILITATES THE TREE AND THAT'S THE BIGGEST IMPACT.

NOT ALL SPECIES OF TREES THAT THIS INSECT IS FEEDING ON, BUT PARTICULARLY ON VINES LIKE GRAPES.

IN PENNSYLVANIA, THEY HAVE A LOT OF EXPERIENCE WITH THAT PROBLEM IN THE STATE.

ACTUALLY, THAT DOES LEAD ME TO MY OTHER QUESTION, BECAUSE WITH SO MANY, I GUESS, PEOPLE WHO WOULD BE MAYBE WONDERING HOW COULD BUSINESSES LOSE MILLIONS, WE KNOW THAT NEW YORK STATE IS BIG ON, UMM, THE WINE INDUSTRY IN THE FINGER LAKES AND ON LONG ISLAND, THE HUDSON VALLEY IS HUGE FOR APPLE ORCHARDS.

AND THEN THERE'S ALL OF THE MAPLE SAP PRODUCING TREES.

IS THERE A PARTICULAR CROP THAT IS MOST AT DANGER FOR AN INFESTATION OF THESE KIND OF BUGS?

SO THE GRAPES, THAT IS THE BIGGEST CONCERN IN THE STATE.

SO WE HAVE FOUR MAJOR GROWING AREAS.

WE HAVE LONG ISLAND, WE HAVE THE HUDSON VALLEY, WE HAVE THE FINGER LAKES, AND WE HAVE WEST NEW YORK.

SO A NUMBER OF ACRES, WE HAVE MORE GRAPES IN THE LAKE ERIE AREA.

AND THE OTHER REGIONS ARE MOSTLY FOR WINE PRODUCTION.

SO THAT'S WHERE WE HAVE -- THAT'S THE BIGGEST THREAT IN THE STATE.

THEY'RE PRESSING IN LONG ISLAND AND THE HUDSON VALLEY.

AND WE'RE JUST KEEPING AN EYE TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS IN THE FINGER LAKES AREA AND LAKE ERIE, AS WELL.

NOW, JULIE, I WANT TO ASK, BECAUSE IT SEEMS LIKE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT AN INVASION LIKE INSECTS, WE'RE TALKING MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS, IS IT REASONABLE TO SAY THAT WE CAN CONTROL THIS BY STOMPING THEM OUT ONE AT A TIME?

I'M REALLY GLAD YOU ASKED THAT QUESTION.

BECAUSE THE STOMP CAMPAIGN IS JUST ONE PART -- IT'S LIKE THE PUBLIC FACING PART, WHAT THE PUBLIC CAN DO.

AND CERTAINLY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, YOU KNOW, HAVE A COMPLEX PLAN THAT THEY PUT IN PLACE WHEN IT WAS DETECTED IN 2014.

SO THERE'S TREATMENTS, IN INSECTICIDE AND HERBICIDE APPLICATIONS TRYING TO REMOVE ONE OF ITS FAVORITE TREES, THE TREE OF HEAVEN.

SO STOMP IS NOT THE ONLY WAY, BUT THE ISSUE WITH WHEN YOU MENTIONED THIS BEING A PROBLEM FOR BUSINESSES, THIS INSECT IS CARRIED BY HUMANS.

SO YOU'RE SEEING IT A LOT NOW, BUT IN SEPTEMBER WHEN IT GETS REALLY ACTIVE, AND THEY START TO MATE AND THEY START TO LAY EGGS, THAT'S WHEN THEY'LL FLY INTO AREAS, CARS, SUBWAY TRAINS AND WHAT NOT.

SO THE WHOLE IDEA OF STOMP IT, IF YOU DON'T KILL IT, YOU MIGHT CARRY IT.

SO THAT'S WHAT WE WANT TO MAKE SURE YOU'RE NOT TRANSPORTING IT INTO THESE VINEYARDS, INTO NEWER AREAS.

SO WHY IT'S POTENTIALLY A PROBLEM FOR, YOU KNOW, BUSINESSES, IS BECAUSE IT'S A NUISANCE PEST, AND PEOPLE NEED TO BE AWARE OF IT.

AGAIN, IT'S THAT STOMP IT DIMENSION IS ONLY ONE PART OF A LARGER MANAGEMENT PLAN.

ALL RIGHT.

WITH THAT IN MIND, THAT PART OF A LARGER PLAN, FOR THOSE OF US THAT MIGHT BE BUG GUT AVERSE, IF YOU WILL, ARE THERE BETTER, I DON'T KNOW IF WE WANT TO SAY MORE HUMANE, BUT ARE THERE LESS GROSS WAYS OF GETTING AWAY FROM THEM?

YES.

IF YOU WERE TRYING TO KILL THE ADULTS, ONE WAY THAT I'VE MENTIONED IS THAT YOU COULD CAPTURE IT IN A SODA BOTTLE OR YOUR DISPOSABLE COFFEE CUP AND PUT IT IN THE FREEZER AND THAT WILL KILL IT.

BUT THERE IS A VARIETY OF DIFFERENT METHODS, DIFFERENT TRAPS THAT ARE AVAILABLE.

PENN STATE EXTENSION HAS A MANAGEMENT GUIDE THAT BASICALLY IS ALMOST LIKE TAKES A DECISION FREE APPROACH TO WORK WITH PEOPLE TO SAY BASED ON THE LIFE STAGE OF THE INSECT, THESE ARE YOUR DIFFERENT MANAGEMENT PLANS THAT YOU COULD COME UP WITH TO MAYBE BUILD A CIRCLE TRAP.

THERE'S A LOT OF DIFFERENT OPTIONS THAT DON'T JUST RELY ON STOMPING OR EVEN IN CHEMICAL INSECT SIDE USE IF YOU'RE NOT COMFORT COMFORTABLE WITH THAT.

FOR THE SPREAD OF THESE BUGS, BECAUSE I KNOW PEOPLE IN THE CITY HAVE SEEN THEM AND IN PENNSYLVANIA OF COURSE, BUT THERE MIGHT BE OTHER REGIONS THAT PEOPLE HAVEN'T SEEN THESE BUGS.

AND SO IS IT SOMETHING THAT WE SHOULD EXPECT TO START SEEING THEM IN OTHER REGIONS OF THE STATE OR JUST THE GEOGRAPHIC AREA?

ACTUALLY, THIS, AGAIN, IS PART OF THIS IMPORTANCE OF THE PUBLIC AWARENESS ABOUT THIS INSECT.

THIS INSECT HAS SHOWN UP ON MULTIPLE OCCASIONS IN CALIFORNIA, AS WELL AS IN OREGON AND WASHINGTON.

AND SO IT JUST HAS NOT BEEN ABLE TO ESTABLISH THERE, OR IT'S NOT KNOWN TO HAVE ESTABLISHED YET.

SO THIS IS SOMETHING THAT A LOT OF STATES ARE IN THE LOOKOUT FOR.

SO YES, BECAUSE IT GETS TRANSPORTED WITH PEOPLE, AND IT GETS TRANSPORTED ON TRUCKS, ON TRAINS AND IN CARS, WE HAVE SEEN IT POP UP IN A NUMBER OF STATES AROUND THE COUNTRY.

BUT THIS IS WHY, YOU KNOW, WE WANT TO MAKE PEOPLE AWARE, IF YOU SEE IT, STOMP IT, REPORT IT.

ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE IN AREAS WHERE YOU -- WHERE IT'S NOT KNOWN TO BE ESTABLISHED LIKE THE MIDWEST OR WESTERN STATES OF THE UNITED STATES.

BUT I FEEL LIKE THAT'S BEEN WORKING, BECAUSE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN DETECTING IT AND STOMPING IT BEFORE IT'S GOTTEN ESTABLISHED.

ALEJANDRO, WE WERE TALKING ABOUT, YOU KNOW, THE WAYS THAT INDIVIDUALS CAN HELP.

BUT IF YOU HAVE A VINEYARD, IF YOU HAVE AN APPLE ORCHARD, IS IT REALLY REALISTIC TO TRY TO STOMP OR TO COFFEE CUP CATCH THESE BUGS ONE AT A TIME?

WHAT ARE THE REMEDIATION METHODS ARE FARMERS ARE TRYING TO TAKESOME

THAT'S A GOOD QUESTION.

OF COURSE, WE'RE LEARNING FROM PENNSYLVANIA.

THEY'RE EXPERIENCED NOW FOR ALMOST TEN YEARS.

RIGHT NOW, IN VINEYARDS, IN SOME AREAS WE'RE FOCUSING ON PREVENTION.

SO YOU WANT TO MAKE SURE YOU DON'T BRING THAT PEST OR THAT PEST ISN'T ESTABLISHED IN THE VINEYARD OR ON THE EDGES OF THE VINEYARD.

SO TRAPPING IS REALLY IMPORTANT.

YOU HAVE TO MONITOR THOSE AREAS.

WE ARE EDUCATING THE GROWERS TO ADOPT THOSE AND INSPECT THOSE REGULARLY.

WHEN YOU HAVE REALLY LOW POPULATIONS, ONE OF THE SUGGESTIONS WE'VE BEEN MAKING AND IT'S GETTING SOME TRACTION FOR YOU IS YOU CAN VACUUM.

IF YOU HAVE A LOW INFESTATION, YOU CAN VACUUM THOSE.

IF THOSE NUMBERS DON'T GET OUT OF CONTROL, I THINK THEY HAVE TO USE SOME INSECTICIDES.

WE HAVE ON OUR WEBSITE REGISTERED PESTICIDES THAT CAN BE USED FOR THAT PEST.

SOME PEOPLE HAVE A PESTICIDE LICENSE FOR APPLYING THOSE.

WE'RE NOT TELLING THE PUBLIC TO GRAB CHEMICALS AND GO OUT AND START PRAYING.

THAT'S ONE OF THE BIGGEST CONCERNS THAT WE HAVE IN GENERAL IS THAT PARTICULARLY IN COMMUNITIES, WE START GETTING ALL THESE INSECTS, PEOPLE START FREAKING OUT AND THEY JUST GO AND PICK UP STUFF FROM STORES AND START SPRAYING A LOT OF CHEMICALS, PUTTING THEM AT RISK, AS WELL.

SO FOR GROWERS, WE'RE FOLLOWING THAT PROCESS, LIKE JULIE DESCRIBED.

WE'RE FOCUSING ON PREVENTION, AND THEN DETERMINING WHAT IS THE BEST ACTIONS TO TAKE, INCLUDING USING SOME INSECTICIDES.

RIGHT NOW, WE'RE JUST PUSHING REALLY HARD ON EDUCATING THE GROWERS, SHOW THEM HOW TO USE THOSE TRAPS.

AND COMMUNICATION WITH COUNTY OFFICES WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF AG MARKETS AND WITH OUR PROGRAM, AS WELL.

ALL RIGHT.

CAN I ADD SOMETHING TO THAT?

THE OTHER THING TO RECOGNIZE IS THAT EVEN IN AN INFESTED VINEYARD, LANTERN FLY, YOU WON'T FIND IT UNIFORMLY DISTRIBUTED.

IT'S GOING TO COME IN TYPICALLY WHERE IT'S A PROBLEM IN SEPTEMBER, OCTOBER WHEN THEY NEED TO FEED HEAVILY TO REPRODUCTIVELY MATURE.

SO THEY'RE GOING TO BE MORE FOCUSED ON -- THEY'RE GOING TO COME IN ALONG THE EDGES OF A VINEYARD.

MAYBE BY A WOOD LINE, BECAUSE THEY'RE COMING IN FROM THE ADJACENT WOOD LOT.

SO THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED IN THE LAST TEN YEARS.

WE'RE TELLING GROWERS, THIS IS WHERE YOU SHOULD FOCUS YOUR MONITORING EFFORTS AND FOCUS YOUR TREATMENT EFFORTS.

AND WE'RE ALSO, YOU KNOW, AT PENN STATE AND CORNELL, A LOT OF US ARE TRYING TO BUILD A BETTER MOUSE TAP, TESTING THINGS LIKE EXCLUSION NETTING TO PUT UP PERHAPS PHYSICAL BARRIERS TO PREVENT THEM FROM COMING INTO THE VINEYARDS WHERE WE KNOW THEY'RE IN HIGHER NUMBERS IN THEETHE THEED A --

I HATE TO CUT YOU OFF, BUT WE HAVE RUN OUT OF TIME.

I WANT TO THANK BOTH OF MY GUESTS, JULIE IRVIN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AT PENN STATE.

AND ALEJANDRO, THE DIRECTOR OF NEW YORK STATE'S INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT AT CORNELL UNIVERSITY.

THANK YOU BOTH SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

AND TELLING US WHAT TO DO WHEN WE INEVITABLY SEE THESE LANTERN FLIES.

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