ALBANY — New York's crops are at risk from a potential invasion of the spotted lanternfly, a winged insect with an appetite for fruits, trees and hops, agricultural experts and state officials warn.
The insect, an invasive species from Asia, first turned up in Pennsylvania in 2014 and has since spread to New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.
"We're anticipating they are coming to New York and we have a plan of action for when it does show up here," said Carrie Brown-Lima, director of the New York Invasive Species Research Institute at Cornell University. "We're hoping we can keep it at bay."
At times called plant hoppers, the pest is native to China and apparently hitchhiked its way into this country with a shipment of granite slabs, Lima-Brown said.
With the craft beer industry making a resurgence across New York, the lanternfly is of significant concern because of its appetite for hops, a key ingredient in many varieties of beer. It is also known to dine on apples, grapes and other fruits.
Paul Leone, director of the New York State Brewers Association, told CNHI one reason craft beer makers are flourishing in the state is the incentives for using New York-grown hops.
"There is an industry built around the New York farm licenses (for beer production), and the availability of New York hops is critical to that," Leone said. "So we're very much hoping they get a handle on this."
While there is no active infestation in New York, the state is at "high risk" of a spotted lanternfly invasion, the Department of Environmental Conservation reported. Two lone insects were found in the upstate region last year, one in Albany County, the other in Yates County.
Research in Pennsylvania on the use of fungi pathogens to kill the insect has yielded promising results.
After visiting an apple orchard in Berks County, Pennsylvania last October, a Cornell professor of entomology, Eric Clifton, wrote in the Cornell Chronicle that fungi -- specifically one strain called Beauvaria and another known as Batkoa -- took a toll on lanternflies..
“It was clear anywhere you walked, you’d see dozens of lanternflies killed by Beauveria on the ground, and then you’d see cadavers all over the trees killed by Batkoa,” Clifton wrote.
But one counter measure tried in Pennsylvania has had unintended consequences.
Sticky tape left on trees to eradicate the pesky insects ended up killing woodpeckers, bats and squirrels.
Regulators in New York are now requiring haulers moving yard waste, construction debris, all species of firewood and outdoor equipment such as lawn mowers and grills from the affected states to get certificates of inspection. The New York rules also prohibit "unnecessary stops" in the out of state areas where quarantines have been imposed.
In the adult stage, the spotted lanternfly is active from July to December. State officials said they are approximately one-inch long and half an inch wide at rest, with eye-catching wings.
Brown-Lima suggested that anyone seeing an insect that could be a spotted lanternfly to try to photograph it and send it to state environmental officials.
"There are not many things that look like them," she said.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Agriculture and Markets urge anyone seeing the insect in New York to report the sighting via an online form.
The report form can be accessed at this web page: https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/116595.html.
Photographs can also be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach him at email@example.com