Spotted Lanternfly: An Invasive Species Damaging to Crops
Spotted lanternflies feed on tree sap. If enough Spotted Lanternflies feed on a tree, it can cause decline or death especially in the presence of other stress. The species can also quickly devastate Virginia crops such as grapes, peaches, hops, and a variety of others.
“In nymph stages, they’ll feed on the extremities of the tree where the wood is still soft,” said Nate Nagle the Prince William County Department of Public Works’ environmental program manager. “As they get older, they’re able to actually pierce at the base of the tree. You can get thousands of adults feeding on one tree. It is almost like a leech taking all the blood out of your body. That’s what they’re doing to trees, just draining that constant sap source.”
County Board of Supervisors Takes Action
The spotted lanternfly was first confirmed in Virginia in 2018 and in Prince William County in 2021. On June 22nd, Occoquan District Supervisor Kenny Boddye, along with his Board colleagues, adopted a resolution to amend the Gypsy Moth and Mosquito Control Service District Ordinance to include surveillance and outreach for Spotted Lanternfly and any future pests identified by the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This adds the spotted lanternfly to its list of invasive species, authorizing the environmental services division to set traps and survey for the pest. The division has placed traps across the county, mostly in main traffic corridors. The invasive pest often comes into an area by transporting goods, such as pallets, firewood, stone, vehicles, or any other smooth surface the eggs can stick to, imported from an infested area.
“We have approximately 50 trap locations throughout the County at high-priority areas to see how far the population has established or extended,” Nagle said. “We have identified one location where they showed up. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and United States Department of Agriculture is on location to delimit where the population is, and they are actively taking steps to manage the population.”
In addition to the traps, the division is monitoring an additional 150 locations in hopes of spotting and deterring spotted lanternfly spread.
Residents may reach out to the staff contact Nathaniel Nagle at (703) 792-5737 or firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information about the invasive pests controls.
What Can Residents Do?
Nagle said the best way to control the insect is to get help from the public. “There’s a chance that we can certainly keep this initial area in check for a period. It’s all about how much buy in we get from the public as far as moving materials. The faster we can find it and the smaller the population is, there’s a likelihood that we can manage those areas of infestation.”
“This is a unique-looking insect in both the immature stages and the adult stages. The more we get people to get a good look at a picture of these insects and say, ‘This is what I’m looking at.” The faster we find these areas the better it is for us,” Nagle said.
Pictures of the spotted lanternfly in the egg, nymph and adult stages can be found at the Virginia Cooperative Extension website.
Homeowners who confirm spotted lanternfly can set traps or call environmental services at 703-792-6279 for help.
Visit pwcva.gov/about-es to learn more about spotted lanternfly and to report sightings.
Homeowners can also avoid using non-native plantings and species in their landscaping.
Controlling spotted lanternfly could save thousands of trees and crops and save County residents money by cutting down on the cost of removing damaged trees.
Additional Control Measures: Native Plantings & Natural Landscaping
In 2020, the County Board of Supervisors directed county staff to utilize native plants as much as possible in public spaces and in negotiations with developers during the land use application process. On Tuesday, July 13th, 2021, several activists from the Wildflower Society, Bluebird Society and several other groups came to advocate and reinforce local action in regards to native plants. After they spoke, the Supervisors tasked County Executive Martino to give an update on the county’s efforts with Public Works implementing native plants in all new county projects and new facilities.
Supervisor Kenny Boddye concurred with Supervisor Lawson as he directed staff to ensure Stormwater Management and other county agencies were also implementing this practice, along with directing staff to look at higher percentages of native plants possible on public grounds, facilities and parks, analyze Fairfax County’s Natural Landscape Policies such as Fairfax’s public facilities and public parks, low impact development practices and natural landscape methods, retrofitting and maintaining existing facilities and sites with natural landscaping and low-impact development (LID) practices, ensuring natural landscaping and LID are monitored and maintained to remain sustainable and viable, and apply green building practices to public facilities.
Supervisor Boddye also directed staff to ensure collaboration of the County Arborist, Soil & Water Conservation District, Cooperative Extension, 4H, Farm Bureau and other relevant stakeholders; and help ensure public education campaign continues about native plants such as NVRC’s Plant NOVA Natives.
This all comes as the Virginia General Assembly commissioned the study of the use of invasive and non-native plants in the commonwealth – https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?211+ful+HJ527. We continue to collaborate with the state on VDOT’s Native Pollinator program and other similar programs which aim to increase the number of native plants used in local and state projects.