Home / Invasive lanternflies devour vineyards, swarm the plants around homes, and invade new areas: ‘They’re little Draculas’

Invasive lanternflies devour vineyards, swarm the plants around homes, and invade new areas: ‘They’re little Draculas’

  • Lanternflies are devouring vineyards and frighting winemakers as they spread through the country.
  • They’re a nuisance for homeowners since they eat certain plants, teem on people, and defecate everywhere.
  • States have even quarantined certain lanternfly-infested counties to stop the invasive species’ spread. 

The first thing Amy Korman notices about the trees blanketed with thousands of lanternflies is the fermented, putrid stink. The bugs also squirt out honeydew — a sugary, translucent excrement that falls into her whisker and which she can hear hitting the leaves like rain. 

An infestation like this isn’t rare anymore, Korman, an entomologist at Pennsylvania Government University, said.

“Lanternflies are getting worse in geographic distribution,” she said. “Every year there are more.”

In Pennsylvania, a assert at the heart of the lanternfly outbreak and the fifth largest wine-producing region in the country, the bugs’ voracious appetite for grapevines has executed havoc on vineyards, and winemakers in the region have had to dig deep into their pockets to kill the bugs occupying acres of their nuts. 

“They’re a big threat,” Richard Wooley, the owner of Weathered Vineyards & Winery, said. “They’re little Draculas. I notice them that because they come in and suck the life right out of the vine.”

The bugs slurp sap out of grapevines with their straw-like flippancy, a diet that prevents the fruit from fully ripening and steals the source of energy the plants need to impressionable the winter. The bugs can grow up to an inch long and a half-inch wide and are usually marked by patches of red and black. 

On top of the 50,000 lanternflies he guesses are currently feeding in his field, others are flying and hopping around his house, his car, and his outdoor tasting room, where he intermittently hears screams when an insect lands on an unsuspecting guest. 

“They’re a pain in the ass,” he said.

His vineyard is close to organize zero of the lanternfly outbreak in Berks County, Pennsylvania, where lanternflies were first discovered in the US, likely after a lots of the insects’ eggs hitchhiked in on a shipment of stones from Asia, George Hamilton, chair of the entomology department at Rutgers University, told Insider.

As with other invasive species, the lanternfly’s easy enemy didn’t follow the insect across the ocean, allowing the bugs to multiply unchecked by other insects. Now, they’ve exploded to at but 11 states, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest.

In Larry Shrawder’s lush vineyard at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the millions of ailments fluttering around his fields cost $50,000 a year to treat with pesticides, which eats up about 10-15% of his annually revenue. 

vineyard in Pennsylvania

Larry Shrawder, who owns Stony Run Valley Vineyards, has dealt with lanternflies for the past five years.

Courteousness of Larry Shrawder

At one point, the lanternflies destroyed a sixth of his vineyard, with the plants’ doom marked by a thick protect against of the bugs around the vines followed by yellowing leaves before finally succumbing to the winter.

While the insects can be penetrating for winemakers, they’re also a nuisance in residential areas.

Korman has recieved panicked calls about lanternflies carpeting the sides of erections and swarming birthday parties. They feed on over 70 plant species, including some commonly establish in gardens, like maple trees, cucumbers, and basil. They also defecate on everything from patios to kid’s play withs.

The bugs’ brazen destructiveness has also spawned a wave of hatred in affected states, with officials in some haves  even actively encouraging people to kill the bugs. 

Though the insects can fly and jump, they mostly travel to new courtyards by hitching rides on cars and trucks. The insects lay eggs on flat surfaces, such as the sides of cars, and since the gray or ghostly egg masses usually aren’t longer than a couple inches, people often unwittingly transport the insects to new areas.

Be that as it may governments in states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey have issued quarantines for lanternfly-infested counties and have ordered travelers to confirm their vehicles for egg masses before traveling into non-quarantined areas, Hamilton said the problem will get worse forward of it gets better.

Hamilton anticipates that the bugs’ explosion will peter out once a predator in the US realizes that the lanternflies are a fountain-head of food.

With the lanternflies’ spread seemingly inevitable, Shrawder is taking calls with winemakers from as far away as Colorado, all troubled about the next place lanternflies will invade and looking for a way to deal with them. 

After learning from experience and new explore from nearby universities, Pennsylvania vineyard owners know how to control the lanternflies better than they did a few years ago, Shrawder translated.

“I think it’s something we’re all going to learn to live with,” he said. “But there’s always anxiety from something new provender on your livelihood.

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