Creepy, crawly and . . . costly?
The spotted lanternfly has once again emerged in New York, New Jersey, and other areas of the country. The pest’s hitchhiking tendencies put many states at risk of invasion, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says it’s going to take $22 million of federal funding to stomp them out nationwide.
“This is a multi-million dollar threat to New York’s economy—both tourism and agriculture are now at risk if the spotted lanternfly goes unchecked,” Schumer said on Sunday.
What is a spotted lanternfly?
Black and white and red all over, the spotted lanternfly—a native of China—first appeared in Pennsylvania in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Now the pests are found in 11 states. They feed on more than 70 plant species, including fruit trees and grapevine, and leave their hosts vulnerable to disease. Cornell University’s New York State Integrated Pest Management has been tracking confirmed locations of the pest with an interactive map that was last updated on August 8.
What could happen if they spread?
The economic impact could be severe. In 2019, a spotted lanternfly infestation in Pennsylvania cost the state approximately 484 jobs and $50.1 million—and it was predicted to cost at least $324 million annually if not contained. In New York, the state’s apple and grape yield alone is valued at $358.4 million, and the “full extent of economic damage this insect could cause is unknown at this time,” according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Nationwide, the “grape, orchard and logging industries” could be severely affected if the spread continues.
What would more funds do?
A number of measures are already underway, but Schumer says more will be necessary to effectively curtail the invasion. In New York, several departments are working together through trapping surveys and inspections to stop further spread. New Jersey announced that it would reimburse counties as much as $15,000 for efforts to fight the spotted lanternfly, as the pest is “currently reaching its adult stage and will eventually begin laying egg masses that will hatch next spring.”
Schumer is pushing for $22 million in federal support for the APHIS program in the upcoming budget. He says more funds would “enhance their work with states to prevent & mitigate invasive species like the Spotted Lanternfly” and help educate the public about the threat. “We need to stomp out this bug before it spreads, otherwise our farmers and local businesses could face millions in damage and an unmanageable swarm,” Schumer said.
What do I do if I see a spotted lanternfly?
Many states have their own reporting platform so people can indicate where they encountered a spotted lanternfly. The APHIS asks anyone who sees a spotted lanternfly outside of a quarantine area to report its location to their State Department of Agriculture. Then: squash it.