Capital Region

Invasive spotted lanternfly brings new quarantine

Quarantine applies to wood products, wood debris and many outdoor items
The spotted lanternfly.
The spotted lanternfly.

Categories: News

CAPITAL REGION — The state has initiated a new quarantine on outdoor items from several neighboring states in an effort to stop the arrival of an invasive insect that could damage apples, grapes, hops and other commercial crops grown in the state.

The state Department of Agriculture and Markets and Department of Environmental Conservation issued the new rules earlier this month, based on concerns about an invasive Asian insect called the spotted lanternfly.

Isolated lanternflies were found this year in the Finger Lakes and locally in Guilderland, but state officials want to keep it from spreading in larger numbers from known infestations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia. Those states already have quarantines.

“The spotted lanternfly is a major concern for us when it comes to our agricultural and our forest land,” said Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball said in announcing the quarantine rules earlier this month.

“If this insect becomes established in New York it would threaten our agricultural and tourism industries, including outdoor recreational activities,” said  DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos.

The quarantine applies to brush, bark and yard waste; landscaping, remodeling and construction waste; logs and stumps; all kinds of firewood and other wood products, and outdoor household items that could carry spotted lanternfly egg masses, including lawn tractors and mowers and grills.

The spotted laternfly is native to China, India and Vietnam, where natural predators keep it under control, but in recent years it has been found in the United States, including in eastern Pennsylvania and southwestern New Jersey.

Spotted lanternfly is known to feed on 70 plant species, with its primary food source being ailanthus, or tree-of-heaven. But state officials said it is a potential threat to maples, apple, grapevines and hops, each of which is a major cash agricultural product in New York. In addition to causing damage by feeding on plants, they excrete large amounts of sticky “honeydew,” which attracts sooty molds that can interfere with plant photosynthesis.

While the insects can fly or hop short distances, state officials believe human activities like transporting wood are the most likely way they spread. “They can hitch rides on any outdoor item,” state officials said in announcing the quarantine.

“The goal of the quarantine we have implemented is to help reduce the opportunities these pests may have in hitching a ride on firewood, plants and other common outdoor items and entering our state in the first place,” Ball said.

Scott Morris, assistant district manager of the Latham office of Davey Tree Expert, said the spotted lanternfly has the potential to be detrimental to an orchard or winery, though anti-pest measures like spraying insecticide that most commercial growers take routinely should be effective against the lanternfly.

But that doesn’t mean there’s no cause for concern, because it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the insect will spread into New York, Morris said.

“As far as the spread of the insect, it has a high propensity to spread,” Morris said. “It can actually lay its egg mass on the side of your car or something like that. It just looks like a little mud or something, so it has a high potential to go undetected.”

The quarantine rules require that travelers bringing wood debris, firewood, logs, nursery stock and other items covered by the quarantine have documentation of the origin and destination of what they are transporting, and prohibits making unnecessary stops. The Department of Agriculture and Markets will operate compliance checkpoints at strategic locations to enforce the regulations.

People who visit infested areas in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia are asked to thoroughly inspect their vehicles, luggage and gear for lanternflies or their egg masses. Eggs are typically laid in late September and early October.

Any potential sightubgs should be reported to the DEC by sending a photo to [email protected] People are asked to note the location where it was found.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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