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Spotted lanternfly, a threat to vineyards and fruit farms, getting closer to the North Fork

The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County has issued an alert after a spotted lanternfly was identified near MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, about 45 miles from Southold.

The state department of agriculture and markets issued a report of the invasive planthopper in late September, according to Daniel Gilrein, an entomologist at The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. The cooperative extension posted a Facebook alert on Nov. 2, noting that the state “is determining the boundaries of the population.”

The spotted lanternfly — first found in the United States in Berks County, Pa. in 2014 — was identified in western Suffolk County in September. The insect, although not dangerous to people, feeds on plant sap and may pose a threat to fruit farms reports

In large numbers, the insect has been known to kill grape vines, although most other plants appear to be less severely affected, according to Mr. Gilrein.

Faruque Zaman, an entomologist at the cooperative extension, emphasized that information is still evolving “almost every day.” As of May 2021, the insect was reported to feed on at least 103 different plant species, he said. 

Mr. Zaman noted the insect is concerning for tree fruit growers, especially apple growers, on the East End. 

“Neither the adults or immatures are reported to directly feed on fruits but large numbers of insects feeding on the limbs and branches can affect fruit quality and reduce production,” he said, adding that other fruit tree hosts include plum, cherry, peach and apricot.


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