Growers on alert in Buffalo, New York

Spotted lanternfly headed westwards

In the US, the spotted lanternfly, an invasive pest from Asia, has already infested southeast Pennsylvania. It is moving west. Experts worry it is only a matter of time before the pest strikes in the Buffalo area, much like the emerald ash borer and the Asian beetle before that.

“What’s happening in the vineyards in Pennsylvania is the spotted lanternflies congregate, eat plant sap and secrete a sticky substance,” said Sharon Bachman of the Cornell Cooperative Extension. “It’s a nasty mess and it’s putting wineries in Berks County out of business.”

Dead lanternflies were discovered at two locations in Erie County, including Eden last summer, Bachman said. They were also discovered on the New-York New Jersey border and in New York City.

“Our biggest concern is the fruit growers in New York," said Ethan Angell, state horticulture inspector for the Department of Agriculture and Markets. "Of those, we are particularly concerned about our grape growers because of the crop loss we are seeing in southeast Pennsylvania."

The invasive insect, about the size of a quarter, was first detected in 2014 in Berks County, Pa. It has spread to parts of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Pennsylvania earlier this week expanded a truck quarantine to two of its western counties, Allegheny and Beaver, as it works to stop the spread of the pest.

In New York, statewide inspections began in 2018 at checkpoints along main transportation corridors, population centers and rail yards through the lower Hudson Valley and in Long Island, as well as in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany and Binghamton, Angell said.

According to Bachman, the expansion to the Pittsburgh area of Pennsylvania is a developing story. “With any invasive pest, there is good news and bad news," Bachman said. "It’s not the same story as the emerald ash borer. The borer had that very specific host plant, which helped us detect it. This one has a wider variety.”

“With vineyards, if it doesn’t kill the plant, it affects the flavor of the grape," Bachman said. "That’s the same as killing your plant if you can’t market your product. What they’re noticing in Pennsylvania is that it’s giving grapes an off-taste during harvest. Locally, it’s more the grapes that is the concern, and it doesn’t matter if it’s wine or fresh juice.”


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