RI DEM on alert for new invasive species

Rather than affecting trees, like most previous invasive species, the spotted lanternfly would be a bigger concern for farm crops like apples and grapes.

By: Tim Studebaker

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JOHNSTON R.I. (WLNE) – Southern New England has seen its fair share of invasive pests over the years, mostly wreaking havoc on trees.  Now, the Rhode Island DEM is on high alert for a new pest: the spotted lanternfly.

Cynthia Kwolek is the State Survey Coordinator for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Cooperative Agricultural Pest Program.  She says, “The spotted lanternfly is a plant hopper, so it’s kind of like a cicada.”

This new invasive species originated in Asia.  It showed up in Pennsylvania in 2014, and has since been spotted in Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.  The DEM says it could easily make its way into Rhode Island next.

Kwolek says “If somebody’s coming from an infested area and they’re bringing a trailer or they’re coming to keep their car parked in our state for like a long time, that would be probably the best mode of transportation.”

What sets the spotted lanternfly apart from previous pests is that it isn’t as much a problem for our trees, but they can damage crops at farms, like apple farms or grape vineyards.

Kwolek says, “In Pennsylvania, where we’ve seen the most damage because it’s been there the longest, they’ve actually seen yield loss of up to 90% of their grapes.”

The state has started actively looking for signs of an infestation, which Kwolek says we’re likely to see within the next year or two.

Kwolek says, “You’d start to see the adults, probably, first.  They’re very noticeable.  They have scarlet hind wings, and they tend to swarm.”

If you see the spotted lanternfly, or signs they might be around, the DEM wants to know about it.  You can report it here: www.dem.ri.gov/reportspottedlanternfly

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Categories: News, Rhode Island