The spotted lanternfly has been found within the region and will be coming for area crops soon, said Corey Childs, extension agent of agriculture for the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s seventh district.
The district, which covers the city of Winchester and the counties of Frederick, Clarke, Page, Shenandoah and Warren, has seen the invasive planthopper in the northwest quadrant of Winchester and parts of northern Frederick and Clarke counties.
A quarantine for Frederick County and Winchester went into effect in May, according to a news release posted at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ website, vdacs.virginia.gov/press-releases-190528-spotted-lanternfly.shtml.
“The spotted lanternfly was first detected in Winchester in January 2018,” the release states. “Subsequent surveys conducted by VDACS indicate that the pest has become established in the city of Winchester and spread into Frederick County, just north of Winchester.”
Before that, populations were established in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Northern Virginia, the release states. The spotted lanternfly is native to eastern Asia.
In November, the VDACS reported the discovery of two spotted lanternflies in Clarke County.
So far, Warren and Shenandoah have escaped the lanternfly’s reach, but Childs said it’s only a matter of time before it will become a problem.
“They’re probably, unfortunately, going to come to an area near you,” he said on Thursday.
Spotted lanternflies look pretty with brightly colored wings of red, black and white, but can wreak havoc on crops, particularly grapes and fruit trees.
“They are an insect that survives on sap,” Childs said. “They basically suck sap and juices from the trees; they feed on that.”
It’s hard to say the impact the lanternflies might have on the local wine industry this year, he said, but state and local officials have had success combating them by removing the sorts of plants they prefer, like the tree of heaven.
Residents and commuters in affected areas should also check their vehicles and machinery for signs of the spotted lanternfly, because it lays its eggs on stationary equipment, such as cars or campers, and can easily be carried from one county to another.
“Therefore, that makes it very hard to stop,” said Childs. “They are protected, so they have a high degree of hatching.”
Egg masses have a gray, “puddyish” look to them, said Childs, who equated them to gypsy moth eggs.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has been partnering with the Extension Office on public outreach and research to work toward controlling the problem. Removal of certain plant life has helped, along with the use of chemicals to eradicate the spotted lanternfly.
“The government has done a really good job in the quarantine area of removing host trees,” Childs said.
For more information, visit vdacs.virginia.gov/plant-industry-services.shtml#lanternfly.