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Extension Focus

Raising awareness in tasting rooms about spotted lanternfly

By Jennifer Phillips Russo.

SLF nymphs on a wild grapevine photo credit Matthew Frye, NYS IPM Program, Cornell University.
SLF nymphs on a wild grapevine. photo credit Matthew Frye, NYS IPM Program, Cornell University.

The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is an invasive, destructive pest with a wide range of hosts that covers some 70 different species of plants including grapes, apples, hops, maple trees and walnut trees. The tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is the pest’s preferred host. The insect was first discovered in the US in Berks County, PA in 2014. Despite a quarantine of the townships involved, and efforts to eradicate this pest, spotted lanternfly has proved difficult to contain. In 2020, it had spread into New York with established populations detected in the five boroughs of New York City, the lower Hudson Valley (Sloatsburg, Orangeburg, Port Jervis) and a small, reproducing population with egg masses in Ithaca, NY.

New York State’s wine industry is at high risk from the spotted lanternfly. With heavy infestations, the insect’s voracious feeding on the vine’s phloem depletes plant reserves. With depleted sugar reserves vines can suffer winter injury, have reduced yield and, in severe infestations, vine death has occurred in some Pennsylvania vineyards.

Even though the plant hopper does not bite or sting, they can be quite a nuisance. Their clumsy flying (hopping long distances) and high numbers can be an annoyance in the landscape. Their feeding on phloem, the sugar-conducting tissue of the plant requires that they excrete large amounts of sticky honeydew that falls onto plants and other objects below and attracts other insects, such as yellow jackets. Sooty mold, in turn, grows on the honeydew, and is very difficult to clean off. Honeydew on vines covers leaves blocking light and making photosynthesis less efficient.

The spotted lanternfly is a great hitchhiker. Its long-distance spread is facilitated by people who, unknowingly, move infested material, adults that fly into vehicles or shipping containers, or items containing egg masses. New York State has implemented actions to prevent the spread of the lanternfly within the state. As of October 2018, a quarantine restricts movement of goods brought into New York State from Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

How Can Tasting Rooms Help?

Wine tasting rooms (and those of other craft beverages) provide a unique opportunity to educate consumers about the spotted lanternfly and its potential impact.

We can use this opportunity to help educate the public on how to identify and mitigate the spread of this invasive pest. With the harvest-related surge in visitors to tasting rooms, we need to be vigilant and educate consumers about risks from this hitchhiker. If we can solicit the help from our customers, then we can be proactive instead of reactive in stopping the spread and protecting our industry.

To prevent the spread of this insect within New York State, Ag & Markets has produced several educational materials, available through their Spotted Lanternfly Outreach Materials Order Form with Point-of-Sale items (factsheets, coasters, etc.) to help educate consumers. Make it part of the tasting experience. All of the items on the order form are FREE! Ag and Markets has an order form for outreach materials that can help educate your visitors such as, FAQ tri-fold pamphlets, temporary tattoos, and reusable tote bags with a picture of the spotted lanternfly, email address, and their logo. You can click here to access the order form: Spotted Lanternfly Outreach Material Order Form

Completed order forms can be emailed to Growers, cideries, and wineries can order supplies and present it as an educational opportunity. Please help protect our industry and get the word out.

Wine coaster front.
Front of the Spotted Lantern Fly outreach coaster.

What the public can do

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, New York State Integrated Pest Management, and Cornell University are working to keep the spotted lanternfly population low through education and early detection.

Report your Findings

If members of the public find a spotted lanternfly, they should contact the Ag and Markets to report it immediately after it is found. Follow these steps:

  • Take a photo
  • Kill the insect
  • Collect it in a bag and freeze it or in a jar with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer
  • Fill out the online “Spotted Lanternfly Public Report” form

Sign Up as a SLF-detector

Sample of Spotted Lantern Fly outreach materials.
Sample of Spotted Lantern Fly outreach materials.

Additionally, New York State has launched a new effort to combat SLF. The State invites volunteers to sign up to survey a specific area, or grid, of land on iMapInvasives. This online, GIS-based data management system is used to assist citizen scientists and natural resource professionals to protect against the threat of invasive species. Volunteers will also enter data from their survey work into the iMapInvasives form.

The State will hold a series of training webinars to educate volunteers on how to identify SLF and tree-of-heaven, a plant that SLF commonly feeds on. Each training webinar will focus on a different life stage of SLF based on the time of year that stage would be most likely found during survey. Learn more and visit the iMapInvasives SLF page.

Jennifer Russo is a viticulture specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Lake Erie Regional Grape Program.