Friday, March 13, 2020

Extreme Viticulture: Combating the Spotted Lanternfly

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Agriculture is at the heart of the wine industry and every wine region faces some type of peril. On the east coast, the newest threat is an invasive species native to China, Bangladesh, and Vietnam: the Spotted Lanternfly (also surfacing on the west coast as well).

According to Dr. Joe Fiola, of the University of Maryland Extension, the "pest was first detected in the United States in 2014 in Berks County, Pennsylvania and was accidentally imported from China through a shipment of decorative stone. The pest quickly spread and has decimated vineyards in southeastern Pennsylvania and has the capacity to inflict major damage to hop fields and hardwoods as well. Dr. Joe says the pest has spread into Maryland's Cecil and Harford Counties, West Virginia, and in Winchester Virginia at a stone and block company site. Here is how the University of Maryland Extension describes the damaged inflicted by the Spotted Lanternfly:
Both nymphs (immatures) and adults of spotted lanternfly cause damage when they feed, sucking sap from stems and leaves. This can reduce photosynthesis, weaken the plant, and eventually contribute to the plant’s death. Additionally, spotted lanternfly feeding creates a sugary substance called honeydew. This honeydew, in addition to being attractive to ants, wasps, and other insects, is readily colonized by sooty mold, which can cause parts of the plants to become blackened and look unsightly.

So how do vineyard managers fight the pest, particularly when there are no known natural enemies for biological control? Dean Scott of Pennsylvania's Bergeist Vineyard is fighting the pest through spraying and the Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech recommends a set of insecticides (E=Excellent, G=Good). They recommend the Pyrethroids - Brigade (bifenthrin) (E) and Mustang Maxx (zetacypermethrin) (G) and the Neonicotinoids - Actara (thiamethoxam) (E), Scorpion (dinotefuran) (E), and Admire Pro (imidacloprid) (G).

At the Vineyards At Dodon, in Anne Arundel County Maryland, the winery has taken preemptive measures according to Director of Client Services Regina McCarthy starting with removing several Tree-of-heavens (Ailanthus altissima) - a deciduous tree native to China, that the Spotted Lanternfly is particularly attracted to lay eggs on.

As a consumer, the best support you could provide is to continue to, or start to, imbibe local wines. At some point, you may become personally affected as these pests invade your backyards. At that moment you become the predator.  Here's how to identify the pest courtesy of Penn State Extension.

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