A report in SouthEast Farm Press tells the tale of a new and problematic pest threatening food production.

Whitney Swink, the state regulatory entomologist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, provided the rundown on the spotted lanternfly in a speech to the virtual North Carolina Crop Defense School and advised farmers and others to be on the alert for the pest and let NCDACS know if they see it.

According to Swink, the spotted lanternfly is like many exotic pests in its being endemic to Asia, specifically northern China, Vietnam and Bangladesh. It was first introduced in Korea in 2004 and became, among other plants, a significant pest on peaches and grapevines there.

It was detected in Pennsylvania in 2014, and Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and West Virginia are reported to have infestations.

“We recently found out that chinaberry is a host. That is a big concern to us because we have a lot of that, especially in eastern North Carolina.”

Swink said that the wide host range of the spotted lanternfly is a main concern. A parasite of strawberries, blueberries, cherries, tomatoes, hops, maples, all fruits of stone, walnuts and willows is an insect. The hosts have been described as more than 75 species of woody plants; Swink said the list continues to expand.

Swink said that the spotted lanternfly was spotted in eastern North Carolina's Tree of Heaven, but it is still too early to tell how successful the insect was in the area. Nevertheless, she urged everybody to be on the alert for the bug.

“One of the key things that spotted lanternflies do is they produce copious, copious amounts of honeydew. Essentially, they are pooping sugar water. With one insect doing that, it’s not a big deal, but if you start exponentially increasing how many are doing this, you have a problem”

The adult spotted lanternfly, around an inch from head to wingtip, is very large. "They are really bad flyers since they are plant hoppers. They glide longer than they run. From mid-to late-summer through the winter, they are very abundant and productive. They can also be located here in North Carolina by December, Swink said.

The forewing is red with black spots of the patched lanternfly and the tips of the wings are reticulated black blocks outlined in gray. With a white band, the hind wings have alternating red and black patches. The legs and head are black; the belly, with large black bands, is gold.

In both life processes, spotted lanternflies are exceptionally successful hitchhikers, larvae, instars and adults. They will stick on just about any surface. On roads that fly 65 mph or more, they will stick to cars, she said.

Cover Photo: "Spotted lanternfly, wing detail_2017-06-08-18.04"by Sam Droege is marked with CC PDM 1.0