Albemarle briefed on spotted lanternfly

As program manager for Plant Industry Services at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, David Gianino leads the state’s efforts to fight threats to native plants that could harm whole industries if left unchecked. 

“And we have many different pest programs where we work with invasive species to mitigate either their spread or their impact here in Virginia, and in 2021 unfortunately Spotted Lanternfly has made its way to Albemarle County,” Gianino said. 

That was in July 2021 when a plant inspector found multiple life-stages along the Rivanna River near a railroad. 

Gianino told the Albemarle Board of Supervisors on February 2 that the Spotted Lanternfly can severely damage apples and grapes. 

“It is a piercing, sucking, mouth-part insect and it sucks phloem and sap from the stems of these trees which can negatively impact yield and can impact the quality of a fruit that relies on lots of sugar content,” Gianino said. “They swarm and feed very intensely in the fall and that can also impact how nice the grapes are, how good a wine it makes.” 

This checklist may become more common to Albemarle residents if the spread of Spotted Lanternfly increases here, but Gianino hopes it can be contained. Download the full checklist to learn more.

The spread of Spotted Lanternfly is due to it being a hitchhiking bug that jumps onto modes of transportation. Originally from China, the bug arrived in Pennsylvania in 2014. 

“It doesn’t traditionally fly but it will glide and it jumps on to cars, trucks, gravel, buses, anything that moves it will jump onto and that’s the primary way it gets around,’ Gianino said. 

Gianino said the swarms can also affect other property owners because it is unpleasant to be around. He said if not addressed, this can affect agribusiness and especially agritourism. 

“The sheer number of insects that pest can create in an environment is astounding,” Gianino said. 

The spread of the spotted lanternfly is compounded by another invasive species known either as alanthus or Tree of Heaven.

So far, populations in Albemarle County are not as high as they are in the Winchester area, where a quarantine was established in 2019 and expanded to Clark and Warren counties last summer.

“The quarantine requires business owners to obtain a permit and inspect all materials that are stored outside as well as trucks, trailers and vehicles that travel outside of the quarantine area,” reads a site set up to provide information for Winchester area residents

“I believe we have opportunities here to prevent this from happening [in Albemarle] because we do now have better tools,” Gianino said. 

Gianino said the site in Albemarle was treated with pesticides. Trees were injected with substances to prevent further infestation. 

“We’ve placed traps, we’ve scraped egg masses, and we plan to do a thorough survey there next year and continue treatment to try and mitigate this population,” Gianino said. 

There are no natural predators here and Gianino said they do not taste very good to other species. 

Gianino said early detection is key to addressing any invasive species and people who make a sighting are asked to report it to local extension offices so the extent of the spread is known across the Commonwealth. They also want people to seek out resources:

Also, kill it. 

“We tell people to stomp, scrape, squish the spotted lanternfly and then report it,” Gianino said. 

More on this as we move toward spring. 

Map created by the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program.

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