In June the first Spotted Lanternfly sighting in North Carolina happened in Forsyth County. In a news release, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture said the spotting occurred near Interstate 40 in Kernersville.
Spotted Lanternflies have been a problem ever since they were first identified in 2014 in Pennsylvania. The bugs are known for their easily recognizable bright red and white coloration with scattered black dots. They present many problems to the agriculture industry and homeowners because of the amount of honeydew they produce. The honeydew attracts stinging insects like wasps and ants and causes sooty mold to grow on infested plants, homes and businesses.
“It potentially could be disastrous for grape and fruit producers,” Dr. Clyde Sorenson, entomology professor at NC State University, told Carolina Journal. “But it’s also going to be a major pain for people who live in the area. The Lanternfly will feed on at least 70 different plants, including maples, and lots of people have maples in their yards as shade trees.”
The area where the Lanterflies were spotted is part of the Yadkin Valley. This area is home to over 400 of North Carolina’s wineries. If not controlled, the Lanternflies could be detrimental to the wine industry in the state, feasting on grapevines and prohibiting them from photosynthesizing.
Aside from the agricultural issues lanternflies create, they are prolific egg layers. They are known to lay eggs everywhere from wheel wells to outdoor working equipment, making them exceptionally good at spreading their populations.
“If you live in the area where this thing gets established, you’re going to have to be very scrupulous about when you travel out of that area that you’re not transporting eggs. If folks don’t take that seriously then it’s going to be everywhere very quickly,” said Sorenson, “The adult insects don’t fly particularly well; they don’t go particularly far. They lay their eggs on everything. If they lay eggs on your car tire or your camper trailer and then you go somewhere and they hatch, you’ve potentially established a new population.”
The caution concerning Lanternfly infestations isn’t without merit. A study by economists at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences estimated that the Lanternfly, if not contained, would contribute to 2,800 jobs lost and a loss of $324 million in 2019, largely due to agriculture and forestry damage. Pennsylvania has “quarantined” 45 counties for the insect, limiting the movement of landscaping material and tree parts around the state to avoid spreading infestation. More than 20,000 businesses in Pennsylvania were forced to get permits for transporting materials.
Another control measure is reducing the population of Ailanthus altissima, commonly known as the “tree-of-heaven,” which is the Lanternflies most common host. The tree is found in Forsyth County and is prolific in Durham and Raleigh. The tree-of-heaven is an invasive species as well; it damages sewers, pushes out native plants in urban areas and produces a chemical that acts as a herbicide to its competition. Adult Lanternflies cannot survive winter, but their eggs are often covered in mud to protect it from cold temperatures.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services created a spotted Lanternfly reporting tool where there is more information regarding the stages of the spotted Lanterfly’s life cycle. They urge anyone who suspects a Spotted Lanternfly infestation to immediately report it through the online tool, or email a picture to [email protected], so North Carolina doesn’t become the species new home.