Swat lanternflies or stomp out CWD?
There was an intriguing exchange between Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, and state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding at the Senate hearing on the Department of Agriculture’s budget on March 2.
Laughlin told Redding he believes we’re throwing money away on trying to control spotted lanternfly and funds should instead be shifted to trying to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease through wild deer herds.
“I don’t believe for a minute you will be able to stop the lanternfly from spreading across the commonwealth,” said Sen. Laughlin, noting that he is not aware of a successful effort to control a similar invasive insect. “I think we need to focus on the help we can give our farmers to deal with this crisis.”
Sen. Laughlin, who serves as the majority chair of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, said he believes a good portion of the $22 million lanternfly money should be diverted to dealing with chronic wasting disease in deer.
That didn’t sit well with Secretary Redding, who noted that the spotted lanternfly is a pest of federal as well as state concern, in particular because it could be used as a reason to not accept U.S. agricultural products in other countries.
Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks, who serves as the minority chair of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, said Berks County is in the center of the spotted lanternfly outbreak and has seen first-hand the damage it does to farms, in particular to vineyards.
She pointed out that upwards of 70% of vineyards cannot recover from even one year of damage from the spotted lanternfly. Sen. Schwank likely mentioned vineyards because Erie County, which Sen. Laughlin represents, accounts for 72 percent of grape production in Pennsylvania.
For those of you in the western reaches of the state who don’t pay attention to the news, spotted lanternflies are the mother of all invasive pests – the worst bug we’ve seen. Originating in Asia, it was first found in Berks County in 2014. In just five years, the insect spread to 14 counties in southeastern Pennsylvania. Those counties have been under quarantine.
Early in March, Redding announced that spotted lanternflies have spread to 12 more counties that now are quarantined also: Allegheny, Beaver, Blair, Columbia, Cumberland, Huntingdon, Juniata, Luzerne, Mifflin, Northumberland, Perry, and York.
Penn State, in a study funded by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, reported current economic losses from the spotted lanternfly infestation are estimated to be $50.1 million.