In the invasive pest world, looks can be deceiving

Perhaps nowhere is the phrase “looks can be deceiving” more appropriate than when applied to the mute swan.

Yes, they are beautiful. But they are much different than the trumpeter swan, despite the physical similarities. The non-native, invasive species displace native wildlife species, degrade water quality, destroy submerged aquatic vegetation, are troublesome in the area of airports, and can even be aggressive toward humans.

Yes, looks can be deceiving.

And New York state may be poised to add another invasive species to that category.

The spotted lanternfly arrived in Pennsylvania more than three years ago. A serious concentration exists in the southeastern portion of the Keystone State, where it poses a threat to grapes, apples and other crops. How much of a threat? Enough that the U.S. Department of Agriculture saw fit to award Pennsylvania nearly $3 million to combat its spread.

And the invasive could be coming to New York state. In fact, it already has – a dead spotted lanternfly was discovered last fall in Delaware County, believed to have been carried into the Empire State via an interstate shipment. New York Agriculture and Markets Department officials said the discovery highlights how the invasive pest can be brought into the state.

“If left unchecked, the spotted lanternfly can wreak havoc on some of our state’s largest and economically important crops,” agricultural Commissioner Richard Ball said in a news release.

Consider the state’s wine industry and its apple orchards and the potential threat and economic impact should the lanternfly take hold. The insect also would impact the state’s hardwood and other fruit industries. They feed heavily on walnut, oak, maple and hickory and have also been found on alfalfa, corn, and soybeans, but to a lesser degree.

Related to cicadas and aphids, adult spotted lanternflies are about an inch long with spotted, brightly colored wings. Eye-catching, to be sure. But trouble. They lay their egg masses on the bark of trees and feed on a variety of plants, preferring to feed on and lay eggs in the Tree of Heaven. Pennsylvania officials are waging war against the insect by trying to remove Trees of Heaven.

Native to Southeast Asia, the spotted lanternfly was introduced into South Korea in 2006 and was first identified in Pennsylvania in 2014 on a damaged Tree of Heaven. Pennsylvania has a 13-county quarantine in an effort to prevent its spread. The insect feeds on, weakens and slowly kills host trees and grapevines, producing massive amounts of honeydew, which create a sooty mold on affected surfaces.

Yes, looks can be deceiving.

Categories: New York – Steve Piatt

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