Rebecca Bernacki gives overview of invasive insect that’s making appearance in Adirondack region
By Mike Lynch
First found in the U.S. in Pennsylvania in 2014, the invasive spotted lanternfly has been spreading in the Northeast in recent years.
Native to China and Southeast Asia, the colorful insect is about one inch long and half an inch wide. It often spreads when its eggs are transported from one area to another.
Once in a new area, it can cause damage and kill a variety of trees ranging from maple to apple.
There are no known populations in the Adirondack region, but at least two possible sightings have been reported.
To learn more, the Explorer conducted a written question-and-answer exchange with Rebecca Bernacki, terrestrial invasive species coordinator with the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program.
Explorer: What are the potential impacts of having spotted lanternfly in the Adirondacks?
Bernacki: Spotted lanternfly poses the biggest threat to agricultural areas. Both adults and nymphs will feed on the sap of over 70 plant species and can damage crops such as grapes, hops and apples. The feeding by these insects weakens the plant, leaving it susceptible to disease and attacks from other insects. The feeding also leaves behind a sticky substance called honeydew, which can lead to sooty mold and further interfere with the plant’s ability to photosynthesize. The honeydew can limit folks’ enjoyment of the outdoors and it can get in their hair and on their clothes.
Explorer: Where is it currently found in New York state and Vermont?
Bernacki: New York State Integrated Pest Management maintains a great map showing where spotted lanternfly has been found. It includes information on both individual finds (where just a single insect or small number of insects is found) and infestations and is updated every few weeks. Only one find has been recorded in Vermont, and that was in Rutland County. Per the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, spotted lanternfly has been found on Staten Island, all New York City boroughs, Long Island, Port Jervis, Sloatsburg, Orangeburg, Ithaca, Binghamton, Middletown, Newburgh, Highland and the Buffalo area.
Explorer: There have been at least two possible sightings in the Adirondack region. One at the northbound High Peaks rest area on the Northway near exit 29 and one in Herkimer County. Is there reason to worry about these potential sightings?
Bernacki: The sighting in Herkimer County was just a single insect and, to my knowledge, the same is true of the sighting on the Northway. The Northway sighting was very recent, was reported to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, and I have not heard any updates. When we find these individual insects, surveys are done to rule out a larger infestation. Individual insects are great at hitchhiking, and it is not uncommon to find adults on vehicles traveling through areas where spotted lanternfly is present. The bigger concern, one that is highlighted by the movement of these individual insects, is just how easy it is to move these guys to a new area. While a single insect in an area is not a large concern, we need to be careful not to inadvertently transport spotted lanternfly. This is especially true of the insect’s egg masses. Spotted lanternfly will lay eggs on any hard surface including vehicles, RVs and campers, boats, trailers and moving storage pods. If you are in an area of the county where spotted lanternfly is present, always check your vehicle and any outside equipment for egg masses before traveling to uninvaded areas like the Adirondacks.
RELATED: Learn how to identify lanternfly
Explorer: How is the insect transported and getting spread?
Bernacki: Spotted lanternfly are excellent at hitchhiking on vehicles, nursery stock and other goods. Some areas in the country are quarantined and the movement of goods and outdoor products is restricted without an inspection. It’s the old “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and we all need to do our part.
Explorer: What should people do if they think they’ve seen a spotted lanternfly?
Bernacki: If you think you’ve located a spotted lanternfly, or its egg mass, in a new area, take a picture and, if possible, include an object like a coin in the picture for scale. If possible, please also collect the insect, place it in a bag, and store it in a freezer or in a jar with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. Note the location that it was found and email the picture and location to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also use the iMapInvasives app to report the finding.
Explorer: Where can people learn more?
Bernacki: There are so many places:
I would also encourage folks to check out the recording of the iMapInvasives webinar from earlier this week.
Send your science questions to email@example.com
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