First invasive spotted lanternfly detected in Rhode Island

So far, only a single insect has been found, but the DEM is on alert for larger populations

By: Tim Studebaker

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – The Rhode Island DEM has announced the first spotted lanternfly has been detected in the state.  It’s an invasive species that can damage certain trees and plants, and it’s especially concerning for the agriculture industry.

Ken Ayars is Chief of the Division of Agriculture and Forestry with the Rhode Island DEM.  Ayars says, “So far we’ve only had a single insect reported to us.  So we don’t have yet a population of spotted lanternfly in Rhode Island, although we’re looking for it and have been for some period of time.”

The species originated in Asia.  It showed up in Pennsylvania in 2014 and has been spreading ever since.  Ayars tells us researchers estimate larger populations could approach Rhode Island in the next year or two.  This first one was discovered in Warwick by an observant member of the public, who reported it to the DEM.  Now, they’re scouring the area looking for more.

Ayars says, “We’ve set some additional traps out there looking for the population, which we have yet to find.  So probably it was a hitchhiker that made its way up from someplace south.”

Although it can target maple, walnut, and willow trees, the agriculture industry is on especially high alert because it can damage farm crops like apples and grapes.

Ayars says, “It’s really damaged many vineyards in the states where it’s become endemic.  And certainly we want to avoid it becoming endemic in Rhode Island for all those reasons.”

To find tips on preventing the spread or to report sightings, visit the DEM’s website: http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/agriculture/pests-spotted-lanternfly.php

© WLNE-TV / ABC6 2021

Categories: News, Rhode Island