Invasive fly species threatens 20 Ohio counties

Invasive fly species threatens 20 Ohio counties
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An invasive species originating from Southeast Asia could wreak havoc on local crops.

                        

An invasive species originating from Southeast Asia could wreck havoc on local crops.

According to the OSU Extension office, more than 20 counties in Northeast Ohio could see the spotted lanternfly, a pest that feeds on grape, hops and orchard plants.

The fly was introduced into the United States in Eastern Pennsylvania in 2014, likely through imported woody plants or wood products, and spread to seven states including West Virginia.

Its preferred host plant is called Tree of Heaven (Alianthus altissma), also an invasive species from China that came in the 1700s and now tends to grow near railroads, roads and construction sites.

The insects usually congregate on them during their life cycle. There are more than 70 different species of plants they will eat with Tree of Heaven and grapes being of high preference.

“They penetrate into the phloem of the plant and suck the sap out,” said David Adkins, ag inspection manager in the Plant Pest Control Section of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. “After they leave, the entry points continue to seep sap, like the plant is bleeding. This weakens the plant, thus inviting other insects and diseases to attack as well. Mortality can occur.”

The insect’s waste will cover the plant as well, which leads to a fungus or mold that can kill it.

The spotted lanternfly is not a strong flier and will hop from plant to plant. Despite its lack of flying, they can still spread long distances by people who move materials with them or their eggs on it.

Adkins said removal of the Tree of Heaven plants may help slow down its spread. “Spotted lanternfly can survive without Tree Of Heaven, but their populations seem to be smaller and not as healthy.”

A female spotted lanternfly lays between 30-50 eggs in the fall, which will in turn hatch between April and June. The eggs are small, grey masses protected by a waxy covering.

After hatching, the spotted lanternfly goes through four stages. In the first three stages, they are black with white spots, and in the last stage, they are red with white dots and black stripes. This is usually in the summer. During the late summer and fall, they are in the adult moth stage and are about 1 inch long with black bodies and brightly colored wings. They do not bite or sting.

Residents can check their car and outdoor equipment like grills, furniture and firewood, especially if they have been traveling outside the area.

If you see a spotted lanternfly, the best thing to do is call your local extension office.

If you have seen a spotted lanternfly, report it to the Ohio Department of Agriculture at 614-728-6400 or email plantpest@agri.ohio.gov. “We’ll need the exact date, time and location, as well as your contact information,” Adkins said.

Adkins said it is best to include a picture or a specimen sample with the sighting.


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