Tuesday, October 4, 2022

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Lantern plague hits 14 US states

Swarms of Mottled Lanterns swept across the eastern United States, engulfing trees as they went.

The invasive insect is native to China and first appeared in the United States in 2014, in Pennsylvania. This summer, bedbugs infested 14 East Coast and Midwestern states: Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia and Virginia- Western. .

“I’ve seen lanterns grow in populations where you can’t even see the bark of the tree through the insect bodies,” said Emilie Swackhamer, a plant science expert at Penn State Extension in Collegeville, in Pennsylvania. new scientist. “It’s annoying because you wonder what it does to the health of the tree.”

The mottled lantern is only about 1 inch. It has characteristic gray fore wings with black spots and red hind wings also with black spots. They feed on a wide range of fruit, ornamental and woody trees, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

If allowed to spread in the United States, they could decimate important trees of more than 70 species, including almond, grape, apple, peach, maple, oak, willow and pine. When insects infest a tree, they suck fluids from plant tissues, which can eventually kill the plant. These infected trees could cost the country millions of dollars: in New York City alone, the wine and grape industry is worth $6.65 billion.

According to APHIS, Mottled Lanterns head to new locations by hitchhiking, laying eggs on tree bark, outdoor gear and cars. Signs of a tree that has been affected by lanterns include oozing or weeping, a fermented smell, a buildup of sticky honeydew, and visible sooty mold on the plant.

Some models predict that the insects could travel to California by 2033.

APHIS-suggested preventative measures include checking outdoor objects and trees for Mottled Lantern egg masses and destroying them, either by placing them in a plastic bag full of hand sanitizer or crushing them. . Egg masses appear brownish-yellow in color and contain 30-50 eggs, which are coated in a waxy substance that turns gray over time.

Some states, including Delaware and New York, encourage residents to trample and kill the insects if they spot them.

“We can understand the reluctance to kill the spotted lanternfly, which looks colorful and harmless,” said Chris Logue, director of plant industry at the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. New York Times. “However, the damage this invasive species can cause by harming important crops and affecting our food system is real. We simply cannot take the risk.”

Even so, crushing insects to death is “not the management plan,” said Julie Urban, an insect scientist at Pennsylvania State University. new scientist. “The idea is that we can stop it from spreading just long enough to give us a better long-term solution,” she said. “Even if in the grand scheme of things you’re just buying a little time, that little time means a lot.”

According to Urban, more effective solutions include insecticide treatments, careful monitoring of transport hubs and even biological control using fungi that infect insects.

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