Spotted lanternfly confirmed in North Carolina
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Over the past few years, we have been saying it’s a matter of “when”– not “if”– the spotted lanternfly would invade North Carolina. Well, we no longer have to wonder. Recently, an established population of spotted lanternfly was confirmed in North Carolina for the first time.
On June 29, 2022, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service (NCDA&CS) announced an infested area in Kernersville, a suburb of Winston-Salem in Forsyth County. Initial surveys indicate the infestation covers a 5-mile-radius area, indicating it’s likely been there for a couple of years before it was reported. The NCDA&CS continue to survey to determine the extent of the infestation and are already starting treatments to reduce populations.
The spotted lanternfly (SLF; Lycorma delicatula) is an invasive insect native to Asia. First detected in the U.S. in Pennsylvania in 2014, it has since been detected in 9 additional states. In late 2021, an infestation popped up very near to the NC-VA state line, prompting concern that its invasion into NC was imminent.
The spotted lanternfly is an agricultural, ornamental, and nuisance pest. They use piercing-sucking mouthparts to feed on plant phloem. Agriculturally, the threat is primarily to grapevine, in which up to 90% yield reduction of infested vineyards is documented. During heavy infestations, grapevines may be killed and mating swarms may disrupt agrotourism events at vineyards such as tours and weddings. Moreover, SLF feeds on more than 100 species of plants, including hops, fruit trees (apple, plum, cherry, peach, more), native trees (dogwood, oak, maple, beech, more) and many more. Spotted lanternfly is not suspected to cause tree mortality, but feeding retrieves nutrients from the plant, weakening it, reducing photosynthesis, and making plants more susceptible to other stress agents. In rare cases, SLF has killed young or not-yet-established plants.
As a nuisance pest, SLF congregates near and in homes and businesses, causing aggravation among those who encounter it. Because they aggregate, copious amounts of honeydew (an excrement of plant-sucking insects) and sooty mold accompany an infestation. Sooty mold is a fungus that grows on honeydew. In small quantities, it is generally harmless, but in excess, it can block plant photosynthetic capabilities and be an aesthetic nuisance to homeowners. Spotted lanternfly feeding sites may also ooze sap and be accompanied by a fermented smell which often attracts other insects like yellow jackets, bees, ants, and flies.
What should you do if you suspect you find SLF in NC? Report it! The NCDA&CS responds promptly and the more quickly they are made aware of an infestation, the greater their chances of management are. To report SLF, submit your information and a photo using this online form.