The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (AGM) is asking for the public’s help in combatting the Spotted Lanternfly (SLF), an invasive pest from Asia. First found in New York State on Staten Island in August 2020, the population has now been observed in all NYC boroughs. SLF is a destructive pest that feeds on more than 70 plant species, including tree-of-heaven, and plants and crops that are critical to New York’s agricultural economy, such as grapevine, apple trees, and hops.
“The Department has been working diligently to mitigate the impacts of this destructive pest, which can weaken plants and have a devastating impact on agriculture. Despite intensive survey and the implementation of targeted management plans, AGM has continued to find SLF around the New York City area. We are once again asking for residents’ help, this time with spotted lanternfly control measures, particularly in this area. Outside of NYC, we’re asking for the public to continue to be vigilant and report any sightings to help slow the spread of this invasive,” said State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball in a recent press release.
New York City Region
NYS AGM has been receiving increased reports of SLF in the five boroughs of New York City since early this month. While inspectors continue to survey and respond to these reports, AGM is asking residents to destroy SLF adults. Later in the fall the public can help further by scraping off and destroying SLF egg masses. The public can also reach out to Cornell University’s Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM) to learn about control measures or a certified pesticide applicator for treatment options to help combat SLF.
Because NYSAGM is aware of the population spread, it is asking NYC residents to forgo reporting sightings of SLF at this time. In addition to reaching out to Cornell, AGM encourages the public to thoroughly inspect vehicles, luggage and gear, and all outdoor items for egg masses and adult SLF before leaving the New York City region.
While these insects can jump and fly short distances, they spread primarily through human activity. SLF can lay their eggs on any number of surfaces, such as vehicles, stone, rusty metal, outdoor furniture, and firewood. Adult SLF can hitch rides in vehicles, on any outdoor item, or cling to clothing or hats, and be easily transported into and throughout New York.
Residents can also help by allowing surveyors access to properties where SLF may be present. Surveyors will be uniformed and will always provide identification.
Upstate New York
SLF has also been detected in several isolated areas upstate, including Ithaca, New York; however, that population is relatively small and scheduled for treatment.
Reporting in Upstate New York is critical, helping inspectors identify any newly impacted areas.
Brian Eshenaur, Sr. Extension Associate at Cornell University’s NYS Integrated Pest Management Program, said, “In New York, we’re particularly concerned about the impact Spotted Lanternfly could have on our grape and wine industries. Our NYS Integrated Pest Management Program has been working with our colleagues in Pennsylvania over the past few years to learn from their experience and prepare our growers for this insect advance. We are currently scouting vineyards and have NYS appropriate management options available for producers and tips for residents as well.”
In February of this year, the State also launched an innovative effort to combat the spread of SLF in New York State. A new online interface allows volunteer members of the public to assist in surveying for SLF in a specific area, or grid of land, and tracking associated data. The program encourages broader surveying for SLF and increased public awareness of this invasive pest.
The State is holding a series of training webinars to educate volunteers on how to identify SLF and tree-of-heaven, a plant that SLF commonly feeds on. Each training webinar will focus on a different life stage of SLF based on the time of year that stage would be most likely found during survey. Currently, the training focuses on identifying adult SLF. The training will also cover how to use iMapInvasives, how to sign up for a grid and track data, and details about land access. The next webinar will be held on October 27, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. More information about the program, including upcoming webinars, can be found at https://www.nyimapinvasives.org/slf.
Spotted Lanternfly Devastating to New York Agriculture
SLF feeding can stress plants, making them vulnerable to disease and attacks from other insects. SLF also excretes large amounts of sticky “honeydew,” which attracts sooty molds that interfere with plant photosynthesis, negatively affecting the growth and fruit yield of plants, devastating agriculture and impacting forest health.
The estimated total economic impact of invasive insects in the US exceeds $70 billion per year, and if not contained, the SLF could have an impact to NYS of at least $300 million annually, mainly to the grape and wine industry.
SLF also has the potential to significantly hinder quality of life and recreational activities due to the honeydew and the swarms of insects it attracts.
First discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014, SLF has since been found in New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and Virginia. Given the proximity to the Pennsylvania and New Jersey infestations, New York State is at high risk for infestation.
Since 2017, AGM, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, New York State Department of Transportation, and New York State Thruway Authority have taken an aggressive approach to keeping SLF from establishing in New York State, conducting surveys of high-risk areas across the State; inspecting nursery stock, stone shipments, and commercial transports from quarantine areas; and launching a comprehensive education and outreach campaign to enlist the public’s help in reporting SLF.
Adult SLF are active from July to December. They are approximately one inch long and half an inch wide at rest, with eye-catching wings. Adults begin laying eggs in September. Signs of an SLF infestation may include:
Sap oozing or weeping from open wounds on tree trunks, which appear wet and give off fermented odors.
One-inch-long egg masses that are brownish-gray, waxy and mud-like when new. Old egg masses are brown and scaly.
Massive honeydew build-up under plants, sometimes with black sooty mold developing.