Businesses play 'crucial role' in war on spotted lanternfly

Insect threatens Pa.'s agricultural products

PIKE TWP., Pa. - With winter about to blossom into spring, it will be all hands on deck to battle the growing threat posed by the spotted lanternfly as the invasive insect continues its spread across southeastern Pennsylvania from where its first U.S. discovery was made in Berks County in 2014.

"Last fall, Berks County and 12 other southeastern Pennsylvania counties saw just how destructive spotted lanternfly could be as the pest multiplied exponentially in their yards, on trees, and on vines," said state agriculture Deputy Secretary Fred Strathmeyer. "That destructive potential is multiplied further by the ability of this invasive pest to lay eggs and hitchhike on vehicles and cargo, threatening commerce of agricultural and non-agricultural products alike."

For that reason, Strathmeyer paid a visit to Rolling Rock Building Stone Inc. in Pike Township on Tuesday to demonstrate how businesses can play a crucial role in stopping the spread of the spotted lanternfly.

"By investing time and personnel to inspect vehicles and shipments for eggs and changing the way they do business to safeguard against transporting insects, businesses can do a great deal to ensure this pest does not reach further beyond those counties that are already quarantined, helping to protect commerce and our ability to access other markets," Strathmeyer said.

Lea Sullivan was hired to do spotted lanternfly inspections for the stone company. She peeks under wood pallets and checks for any evidence the bug may be latching on to the wood.

"I need to be right there the whole time everything is being loaded to try to make sure no hitchhikers are getting out of here," Sullivan said.

"We don't want to allow it to spread," said Gary Weller, the company's owner. "It's part of what we do here, and it's part of trying to pass that information onto, you know, the people in the surrounding community as a whole and our customers as well."

The spotted, four-winged bug first appeared in the U.S. in 2014, when a shipment of stone from Asia arrived in Berks County with lanternfly eggs attached.

It has since threatened to harm $18 billion worth of the state's agricultural products, including apples, grapes, and hardwoods, as well as exports to other states and countries that do business with Pennsylvania.

"The vineyards and the orchards are a major concern of mine," said Republican state Rep. David Maloney. "They are a major concern because the bug can immediately impact their production, whereas a stone doesn't necessarily get affected."

The fight is being waged at all levels of government, with Gov. Tom Wolf signing an executive order in December that expands the Governor's Invasive Species Council and brings new resources and expertise to bear on protecting Pennsylvania from invasive insects and plants.

At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided $5.5 million to help Pennsylvania researchers study the lanternflies and recently announced another $17.5 million in emergency funding.

DISCLAIMER FOR COMMENTS: The views expressed by public comments are not those of this company or its affiliated companies. Please note by clicking on "Post" you acknowledge that you have read the TERMS OF USE  and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Your comments may be used on air. Be polite. Inappropriate posts or posts containing offsite links may be removed by the moderator.

This Week's Circulars

Berks Area News

Latest From The Newsroom