By Stan Maddux
LANSING, Mich. – The presence of an invasive specifies considered a major threat to makers of wine and honey has been confirmed for the first time in Michigan.
The spotted lanternfly also turned up recently for the first time in northern Indiana after emerging last year in the southern part of the state.
Cliff Sadof, a Purdue University professor of entomology, said the risk posed by the migration is also significant for producers of walnut trees.
He said spotted lanternfly feeds on more than 100 different plants but can only reproduce while feeding on walnut trees, grape vines and tree of heaven. The one-inch-long winged insect native to Asia was first discovered in the United States in 2014 in Pennsylvania.
The insect sucks the sap and other juice from grapevines, which can result in significant damage to the crop.
“Spotted lanternfly populations feeding on wine grape vines can severely reduce winter hardiness or kill the crop all together,” said Elizabeth Long, assistant professor of horticulture crop entomology at Purdue.
Honey can have a smoky taste or smell and become less sweet when tainted by secretions of honeydew from the spotted lanternfly. The honeydew finds its way into honey from bees who ingest the sugary substance if nectar from flowers is in short in supply.
Long said makers of wine and honey should keep a sharp eye out for the species so measures can be taken early to limit the spread.
Beekeeping equipment is a good place to look for the eggs of spotted lanternfly, said Brock Harpur, an assistant entomology professor at the West Lafayette campus.
“Should the spotted lanternfly become established in all parts of Indiana, it is expected that honeydew, the secretion that spotted lanternfly leave behind, will become part of our late-summer honey harvest,” he said.
A small population of spotted lanternfly in Michigan in Oakland and Pontiac counties near Detroit was confirmed by USDA on Aug.10.
The species was mostly contained to a small, wooded lot, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).
“They have already completed pesticide applications of the impacted area,” said Michael Phillip, director of MDARD’s Pesticide and Plant Management Division.
“Early detection gives us more tools in the toolbox for response and containment,” he said.
The spotted lanternfly in Indiana was recently confirmed in Huntington along some railroad tracks.
Railroad cars and semi-trucks are among the known carriers of the insect, confirmed in Indiana for the first time last year in Switzerland County near the Ohio River.
Sadof said spotted lanternfly eggs looking similar to a splash of mud are easily overlooked on large vehicles traveling from state to state.
Long said several insecticides used by grape growers for other pests also work in controlling the spotted lanternfly and that their numbers are not large enough right now to require additional sprays.
Other steps already underway to limit their spread include removing tree of heaven, also native to Asia and spreading across the United States.
Tree of heaven is a favorite source of food for the insect. According to MDARD, a significant but isolated number of tree of heaven were discovered where spotted lanternfly were found recently in Michigan.
The insect also feeds on trees and plants including black walnut, river birch, willow, sumac and red maple.
According to experts, any spotting of the red and black colored insect should be reported immediately to the proper authorities. People are also encouraged to check the outside of their vehicles for the insects and their eggs before driving off. They should park with their windows closed to prevent the species from getting inside.
Egg masses should be scraped into plastic bags containing hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol to kill them, experts said.