lanternfly cluster.jpg

Spotted lanternflies do not directly kill plants; they pierce through them with their straw-like mouth parts, leaving open wounds that are susceptible to disease. Source: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

Following a late December study about the economic impacts of the invasive and destructive spotted lanternfly, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the USDA Bloomsburg Service Center and State Representative David Millard, will hold a seminar and training session on Friday, February 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the meeting room on Sawmill Road.

The seminar will be hosted by Tyler R. Bettinger, a plant industry inspector technician from the Department of Agriculture. Bettinger will discuss information about identifying, finding, and controlling the spotted lanternfly in a variety of ways, known as Best Management Practices. Those who wish to attend the seminar and training should RSVP by or on February 17 by calling (570) 387-0246.

December's economic impact study, which was the first in Pennsylvania to try to solidly quantify the cost of the spotted lanternfly problem, has several components:

  • Current economic impact
  • Projected economic impact if the insect stays within the current quarantine zone, which consists of Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, and Schuylkill counties
  • Projected economic impact if the insect spreads to counties adjacent to the current quarantine zone
  • Projected economic impact if the insect spreads to the entirety of Pennsylvania
  • Costs of control methods (including one-time costs of educational initiatives)

The study also divided economic impact estimates by industry, covering agriculture, forestry, and the overall state economy. According to current estimates, the timber and plant nursery industries have the most to lose - there is a possibility that other states and countries could ban imports of Pennsylvania timber and plants in order to avoid further spreading the insect population.

Based on the study's data, the aggressive response to the lanternfly situation by the Department of Agriculture and Penn State is warranted. In a worst-case scenario, Pennsylvania could possibly lose $554 million per year and bleed out nearly 5,000 jobs if the insect spreads throughout the entire state. Currently the state loses about $50 million annually from spotted lanternfly damage and associated loss of business, with most losses coming from the southeastern part of the state where the quarantine zone is located.

As scientists attempt to find easier and better ways to control the spotted lanternfly population such as attracting a different insect that preys on them, the next best method is teaching those in agriculture, forestry, and even the general public Best Management Practices. These practices involve inspection, better sanitation when dealing with plant matter, and the elimination of lanternflies' favorite host plant, the equally invasive Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima).

To further spread awareness about the spotted lanternfly, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture asked kids throughout the state to create posters featuring facts about the harmful planthoppers in a contest late last year. Winners were revealed at the 2020 Pennsylvania Farm Show, and the top posters will be featured in a calendar that will be distributed by the Department some time in 2020.

This story was compiled by an NCPA staff reporter from submitted news. To see a list of our editorial staff please visit our staff directory.