Spotted Lanternfly continues to menace Virginia as quarantine area expands

In February, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors were briefed on the threat posed by the Spotted Lanternfly, an insect that has come to North America from Asia. 

“It’s original territory is kind of China, southeast Asia, and it made its way over to the [United States] in 2014 and made its way hitchhiking,” said David Gianino, the program manager for the Office of Plant Industry Services for the Virginia Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services. 

“An egg mass hitchhiked on some landscape brick is what we believe, some landscape stone,” Gianino said in an interview I conducted with him last week to get an update. 

Five years later Virginia established a quarantine in the Winchester area because the insect had spread from its original North America foothold in Pennsylvania. Specimens were spotted in Albemarle County last July. 

The hope had been this winter that mitigation and treatment of sites would prevent the spread of the lanternfly and the expansion of the quarantine, but that has proven not to be the case. 

“Thirteen different states now have populations of spotted lanternfly,” Gianino said. “This particular insect, it’s a plant hopper and it’s kind of like a generalist feeder. But it’s a primary concern for our winery and vineyard industries because not only does it feed on those 100 species. One of those plant species is grapes.”

The lifecycle of the Spotted Lanternfly from a brochure put out by the Virginia Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services (download)

Gianino said spotted lanternfly can reproduce quickly and have no natural predators. That’s allowed them to spread rapidly, raising the threat to agriculture in Virginia. 

“So people really should be concerned because this pest is one that we’re working really hard to slow its spread, but we really do need everybody in the area engaged,” Gianino said. “This bug is bad. There’s no benefit to this bug at all and we want every bug to be killed, stomped, or squished.”

The quarantine area has been expanded this July to cover Albemarle County, Charlottesville and many other localities in Virginia. 

“We expanded the quarantine to include those localities where we know we have spotted lanternfly populations, where they are established and reproducing, and that those populations are within proximity to a transportation pathway,” Gianino said. 

Much of the quarantine applies to commercial vehicles that transport products used on construction where egg masses might be laid. Individuals including yourself are asked to check vehicles before driving to areas not within the quarantine zone. 

“If you’re moving a trailer of brush, we want you to look at it and make sure that if it’s going outside the quarantine that it’s free of spotted lanternfly,” Gianino said. 

Affected businesses have to go through a training program to ensure employees know to look for the insects. And here are the prohibited materials:

  • Any life stage of the spotted lanternfly;
  • Live or dead trees; nursery stock; green lumber; firewood; logs; perennial plants; garden plants or produce; stumps; branches; mulch; or composted or un-composted chips, bark, or yard waste;
  • Outdoor industrial or construction materials or equipment; concrete barriers or structures; stone, quarry material, ornamental stone, or concrete; or construction, landscaping, or remodeling waste;
  • Shipping containers, such as wood crates or boxes;
  • Outdoor household articles, including recreational vehicles; lawn tractors or mowers; grills; grill or furniture covers; tarps; mobile homes; tile; stone; deck boards; or
  • Any equipment, trucks, or vehicles not stored indoors; any means of conveyance utilized for movement of an article; any vehicle; or any trailer, wagon.

Stay tuned for more information.

For more information, visit the VDACS website on the Spotted Lanternfly

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the August 30, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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