Spotted lanternfly poses threat to local trees, crops

 

A plant-hopping pest that sucks the sap out of trees and damages fruit crops is popping up in more places around the region, and some local businesses are worried.

The Clover Hill Vineyards and Winery, with locations in both Berks and Lehigh counties, is in the epicenter of where the spotted lanternfly was first discovered in the United States.

Clover Hill said several of the pests have been found in its vineyards, so workers have been busy putting on netting to protect the growing grapes from starlings.

The nets, however, won't stop the latest threat.

"Within the last week, week-and-a-half, we saw our first lanternfly here," said owner John Skrip III.

The pest was first discovered in the U.S. in eastern Berks County in September 2014. Since then, it has spread elsewhere in Berks and to Lehigh, Northampton, Bucks, Chester, and Montgomery counties.

While Clover Hill has seen only a handful of the invasive pests, Elaine and Howard Crump Are on the front lines in Lower Macungie Township, Lehigh County.

"I trapped 2,300 on just one band," Crump said.

The Crumps are using sticky bands on 10 trees to trap the plant-hopping pests, which pierce the bark of trees and suck out the sap.

The spotted lanternfly excretes the sap in sticky, smelly drops that fall like rain and attract stinging insects.

Penn State officials said orchards, landscapes and vineyards are exceptionally prone to damage.

"The growers try to use the lease toxic option so we are learning what those options might be," said Penn State Extension's Emelie Swackhamer.

Skrip said every vineyard has a pest-control program, and he is hoping that one of the methods currently in use at Clover Hill will protect the grapes.

"I guess, right now, we are going to hope for the best," said Skrip.

Penn State said the research on how to protect plants and trees from the spotted lanternfly is ongoing. Solutions will likely not be ready until next year.

Officials said while the spotted lanternfly is harmful to trees and plants, it will not bite people.

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