Researchers Still Have a Lot to Learn about Spotted Lanternfly

An egg mass-covered end post in a vineyard within the quarantine zone this spring.
Photo: Erica Smyers, PSU

When the spotted lanternfly was initially found in Berks County, PA, in September 2014, the Keystone State was on high alert — given the pest’s destructive history in Korea and potential economic impact. This sap-feeding planthopper is native to China, India, Japan, and Vietnam. But, it is an invasive species in Korea, where it is known to attack 67 host species – including grapes, apples, and stone fruit.

But in the U.S., its impact has been difficult to predict. While researchers at Penn State University and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture anticipated its feeding habits would be similar to those in Korea, the pest has been choosy in the states.

What has been surprising, says Michael Saunders, Penn State University Professor of Entomology, is the rate at which the population has increased in the quarantine zone in the past two years.

While the pest avoids fruits, according to literature from Korea, it attacks grapevines in two ways: direct feeding and through sooty mold from the pest’s honeydew secretions.

“Direct feeding by large numbers of adults will depress vine growth and vigor, and the honeydew excretion from spotted lanternfly can cover leaves and fruit which subsequently become coated with sooty mold,” Saunders says. “Sooty mold can make grape clusters unmarketable and can cause leaves to be unable to photosynthesize.”

Dana Rhodes, State Plant Regulatory Official with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, says the feeding has not affected plant growth.

“We have not seen diminished growth at this point, but again we are only into this a couple of years,” she says.

Saunders says the younger life stages are unlikely to inflict much damage on grapevines, “but the oldest nymphal stage and the adults can pose significant risks to vineyards if not treated.”

But there’s more than just damage to vines, Saunders says of the “strikingly lovely insect capable of making life miserable for everyone, not just farmers but homeowners.

“Imagine walking into your wooded property and being bombarded with sticky honeydew. Your shoes are ruined, your hair is sticky, and your glasses are too smeared to see out of.  We have been to sites like this, and with the increasing numbers of spotted lanternfly, we expect to see a lot more.”

Enigmatic Pest
Studying this pest, which in the Fulgorid family of planthoppers, has been an important part of the process. In fact, they’re learning more about this enigmatic pest all the time.

“Our graduate student, Erica Smyers, has documented a number of behaviors never before seen in Fulgorid planthoppers.  These involve feeding behaviors, feeding site competitions, mating behaviors, etc.,” Saunders says. “Erica is spending the spring and summer living in the quarantine zone so as to better study spotted lanternfly and its impacts on grapes.”

Saunders urges Pennsylvania grape growers to be vigilant. There are still some unknowns about the effectiveness of applications.

“There are a number of compounds that are currently registered in Pennsylvania for grapes that have been tested in Korea for spotted lanternfly control,” he says. “These insects should not be hard to kill, but we know little about how intense the population pressures can become.  For example, we don’t know if a single insecticide application late in the season provides all the control that will be needed, or if multiple applications over a longer time period may be required.”

Get Rid of Egg Masses
For now, the research team feels scouting and eliminating egg masses are an important part of controlling the spread of this pest. Adults, easily identifiable by their distinctive markings,  are active August through December.

“Destruction of egg masses are very effective,” Rhodes says. “One egg mass contains 40 to 50 eggs. Egg masses should be scraped in a downward motion and placed in a plastic bag with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. Finding it early is important since so many eggs are in each egg mass.”

“We are just going into our third year of survey. We are working with orchards, grape growers, and hop growers in the quarantine to try and learn more.”

Looking to the Future
Rhodes says she received a report of spotted lanternflies on hops last year, which will be added to the crops to study. It’s also important for those outside of the quarantine area in Pennsylvania to report any pests spotted. It is believed the pest was spread through egg masses being moved.

“The sooner we know about a population the better our chances are in control,” Rhodes says. “If you think you have spotted lanternfly you may report it to 866-253-7189 or email [email protected].”

Rhodes says there is also a promising biocontrol – a parasitoid which was released to control gypsy moths – which happened to also prey on the spotted lanternfly.

“This parasitoid has been found around the spotted lanternfly egg masses. We are encouraged by this. The Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources has taken the lead in exploring this more. They have found some parasitism with the spotted lanternfly from the parasitoid. Biocontrols are always welcome when they are already established, as it saves time and research.”

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

Grapes Stories
Grapes
April 19, 2017
Donnell Brown Named President of National Grape & Wine Initiative
New president brings experience in wine industry communications. Read More
Grapes
March 28, 2017
Understanding the Economics Of Red Blotch in Grapes
An economist and a plant pathologist team up to help growers understand the threshold for action when a vine is diagnosed with the virus. Read More
Grapes
March 6, 2017
Washington Announces Record Winegrape Harvest
‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ is the leading grape variety, accounting for more than a quarter of the total harvest. Read More
Grapes
February 26, 2017
Winegrowers See Total Sustainability in Their Sights
Sonoma County Winegrowers eyes 2019 to become the U.S.’s first completely sustainable wine region. Read More
Grapes
February 18, 2017
Sustainability Is a Growing Factor in Wine Purchasing
California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance updates certification program, shows sustainability is important part of wine trade. Read More
Grapes
February 17, 2017
Washington Organization Rebrands Itself
Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers unveils new identity at convention, now known as Washington Winegrowers Association. Read More
Grapes
February 14, 2017
2016 California Winegrape Crush Up 9%
Prices were up 12%, and red wine grapes continue to gain on white wine grapes in popularity, though ‘Chardonnay’ remained king. Read More
Grapes
January 30, 2017
Is the Intelligent Vineyard the Future of Winegrape Growing?
In the high desert of Arizona grows the world’s biggest viticulture laboratory. Read More
Grapes
January 30, 2017
Future Herbicide Injury Concerns Winegrape Growers
While new formulas of herbicides are released in conjunction with herbicide-tolerant corn, cotton, and soybean varieties to reduce risk of drift and crop injury, winegrape growers worry some row crop farmers will opt for older formulations. Read More
Grapes
January 27, 2017
How to Match the Fence to Your Vineyard
Follow these tips to determine how much fence you’ll need. Read More
Grapes
January 20, 2017
Live Reports on the State of the Wine Industry
The Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, by far the nation’s largest winegrape conference, is happening this week in Sacramento, CA. Read More
Grapes
January 19, 2017
U.S. Challenges Canadian Trade Measures Allege Discrimination against U.S. Wine
Trade enforcement action challenges British Columbia regulations that unfairly exclude U.S. wine from grocery store shelves. Read More
Grapes
January 6, 2017
Meet Wendy Brannen, New Executive Director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission
Commodity association veteran believes she has found a home with the Lodi Winegrape Commission. Read More
Grapes
January 5, 2017
There are Many Factors Affecting Table Grapes
The loss of table grape berries from their pedicels, or cap stems, during packing, shipping, postharvest storage, or at the Read More
Grapes
January 4, 2017
Grape Growers Say Season Affected by Weather, Water, and Regulation Woes
Grape growers see challenges this past growing season. Read More
The Latest
Grapes
May 19, 2017
Researchers Still Have a Lot to Learn ab…
While some feeding habits have been recognized, there’s still a learning curve with this enigmatic invasive pest. Read More
Grapes
April 25, 2017
Examining the Effectiveness of Biologica…
Growing conditions in the East are breeding grounds for pathogens, and coupled with highly susceptible Vitis vinifera cultivars proves to make sustainable grape growing practices a challenge. Read More
Grapes
April 20, 2017
Would You Be Willing to Pay More for Org…
While consumers might be ready to fork over more for organic produce, study says the feeling isn't quite the same when it comes to the adult beverage. Read More
Grapes
April 19, 2017
Donnell Brown Named President of Nationa…
New president brings experience in wine industry communications. Read More
Grapes
March 28, 2017
Understanding the Economics Of Red Blotc…
An economist and a plant pathologist team up to help growers understand the threshold for action when a vine is diagnosed with the virus. Read More
Grapes
March 6, 2017
Washington Announces Record Winegrape Ha…
‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ is the leading grape variety, accounting for more than a quarter of the total harvest. Read More
Grapes
February 26, 2017
Winegrowers See Total Sustainability in …
Sonoma County Winegrowers eyes 2019 to become the U.S.’s first completely sustainable wine region. Read More
Grapes
February 18, 2017
Sustainability Is a Growing Factor in Wi…
California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance updates certification program, shows sustainability is important part of wine trade. Read More
Grapes
February 17, 2017
Washington Organization Rebrands Itself
Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers unveils new identity at convention, now known as Washington Winegrowers Association. Read More
Grapes
February 14, 2017
2016 California Winegrape Crush Up 9%
Prices were up 12%, and red wine grapes continue to gain on white wine grapes in popularity, though ‘Chardonnay’ remained king. Read More
Grapes
January 30, 2017
Is the Intelligent Vineyard the Future o…
In the high desert of Arizona grows the world’s biggest viticulture laboratory. Read More
Grapes
January 30, 2017
Future Herbicide Injury Concerns Winegra…
While new formulas of herbicides are released in conjunction with herbicide-tolerant corn, cotton, and soybean varieties to reduce risk of drift and crop injury, winegrape growers worry some row crop farmers will opt for older formulations. Read More
Grapes
January 27, 2017
How to Match the Fence to Your Vineyard
Follow these tips to determine how much fence you’ll need. Read More
Grapes
January 20, 2017
Live Reports on the State of the Wine In…
The Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, by far the nation’s largest winegrape conference, is happening this week in Sacramento, CA. Read More
Grapes
January 19, 2017
U.S. Challenges Canadian Trade Measures …
Trade enforcement action challenges British Columbia regulations that unfairly exclude U.S. wine from grocery store shelves. Read More
Grapes
January 6, 2017
Meet Wendy Brannen, New Executive Direct…
Commodity association veteran believes she has found a home with the Lodi Winegrape Commission. Read More
Grapes
January 5, 2017
There are Many Factors Affecting Table G…
The loss of table grape berries from their pedicels, or cap stems, during packing, shipping, postharvest storage, or at the Read More
Grapes
January 4, 2017
Grape Growers Say Season Affected by Wea…
Grape growers see challenges this past growing season. Read More