Growers remain hopeful that California will be able to prevent spotted lanternfly from establishing itself in the state. After being found in Pennsylvania in 2014 the pest has proved to be a difficult one to adequately manage. California officials have been actively preparing for the pest to eventually make its way to the state. Some discoveries of the pest have been made, but fortunately, there has yet to be an established population found. Spotted Lanternfly Extension Associate with Penn State Entomology, Heather Leach said that it is important for California growers to be aware of the situation and stay informed on the issue.
“California residents need to know about spotted lanternfly, be aware of what it looks like, and just know to just keep an eye out. That way we can hopefully keep it out for as long as possible,” said Leach. “Also, be in the know with what the California Department of Food and Agriculture is doing to help prevent spotted lanternfly. They’re very actively involved and it helps to be aware of what they’re doing and what mitigation practices that they’re taking to make sure it doesn’t come into the state.”
Keeping spotted lanternfly out of California is going to be the most effective protection against damage from the pest which has created significant problems for growers in multiple states. It has a broad range of hosts which is contributing to the difficulty in fully eradicating pest populations. Several agricultural crops appear to be good hosts for the lanternflies; however, the most problematic infestations have been seen in vineyards. Spotted lanternfly does not reproduce particularly rapidly, but once an area is infested it can be very difficult to manage their numbers.
“A grower can end up in a situation where they can have upwards of 400 spotted lanternflies on a single vine. Keep in mind that these are large bugs, they’re about an inch long as adults,” Leach noted. “You can end up with hundreds on your vine and go ahead and put on a pesticide spray and within a matter of a couple of days – if not hours – they’re already back and have replaced those dead bugs.”
If California fails to keep spotted lanternfly out of the state, there are various chemical controls that are proving to be fairly reliable in combatting the pest. Those materials offer a short-term solution to combatting infestations, but more work will need to be done to address long-term challenges. The silver lining to the pest’s discovery in more areas in 2020 is that it brings more opportunity for research. Multiple entities are currently looking at a variety of different methods for addressing infestations. Leach explained that collaboration is going to be critical “to make sure that we have everybody ready at the table, with all this expertise so we can hopefully hit it with many tiny hammers and make that impact that we need to make.”
Listen to the interview below.