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Agriculture and Environment

Central Pa. Growers And Researchers Work To Stop The Spotted Lanternfly

Happy Valley Vineyard and Winery owner Barbara Christ stands among ten acres of grapevines on neat rows of trellises.

She points to a post at the end of one row of vines as a perfect location for an unwelcome visitor.

“They would definitely lay egg masses on something like this," she said. 

Spotted lanternflies feeding on grapevines at a different vineyard.
Credit Erica Smyers / Penn State
Spotted lanternflies feeding on grapevines at a different vineyard.

Christ is a retired Penn State plant pathology professor whose research focused on plant diseases. As a vineyard owner, she’s keeping an eye out for the spotted lanternfly.

“It could be extremely devastating to an operation like ours,” Christ said. 

The pest is an invasive species that feeds on plants like grapes, sucking out nutrients they need to survive.

“To us, it’s terrifying," Christ said. "At least 85 percent of what we serve as wine is grown here. So if you were to lose the crop, you’re sunk.”

The spotted lanternfly was first found four years ago in Berks County. It’s currently quarantined to 13 counties in southeastern Pennsylvania.

"Freshly laid egg masses, which are about 1" long and laid on hard surfaces. The egg masses are covered in a white putty-like substance, which age over time to look like cracked mud. "
Credit Erica Smyers / Penn State
"Freshly laid egg masses, which are about 1" long and laid on hard surfaces. The egg masses are covered in a white putty-like substance, which age over time to look like cracked mud. "

But it can easily be transported through egg masses that stick to hard surfaces, like cars.

“What we saw in the spring this year was that the vines that were heavily fed upon did not survive the winter," Urban said. "What we’ve seen in two vineyards is that the vines that did survive did not put forth fruit.”

Urban said researchers are working on making recommendations to help the many sectors affected.

“This thing — it affects so many people in so many ways," Urban said. "You get a new example every day. That’s what’s so alarming about this pest.”

If anyone spots a spotted lanternfly outside the quarantined zone, Leach says to kill it, save it in a container and report it using the Penn State extension website or by calling its spotted lanternfly hotline.