Local urban foresters and naturalists are concerned about reports that a bug that can damage grapevines as well as fruit and other trees has been found in Winchester, Virginia.
The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) was detected in Frederick County on Jan. 10, according to Virginia Tech and the state and federal agriculture departments. The bug, a native of China, India and Southeast Asia, was found in Pennsylvania in 2010. Last year, it jumped from six counties in Pennsylvania to 13 counties and also has been found in Delaware and New York, officials said.
In Winchester, both numerous adults and egg mass were found, according to the Northern Virginia Daily. In addition, it was found at another site approximately 400 yards away. Virginia Tech Prof. Douglas Pfeiffer, who had been searching for signs of the bug, said owners of the site were cutting down and burning all Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus alsimmia), the bug’s favorite host plant for breeding.
Tree of Heaven itself is an invasive plant that flourishes in urban areas, even in sidewalk cracks when it can get a foothold. It has spindly trunks and large compound leaves. It was introduced as a fast-growing shade tree for urban areas and was at home in the novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, where it was a metaphor for the tenacity of recent immigrants living near it. Despite that celebrity, it needs to be removed, preferably when young, because it out-competes native plants that provide nourishment for the local ecosystem. Read more about Tree of Heaven here.
Pfeiffer said that even with the destruction of the host Tree of Heaven, it is likely that the spotted lanternfly already has spread from the Winchester sites. Since it is potentially a very serious pest of grapes, peaches, hops, and a variety of other crops, looking for it and reporting any finds is important. The double-winged bug damages vines and trees it infests by feeding on sap in the host plants.
The spotted lanternfly “may not have a high impact on urban areas, where orchards and large fruit tree groves tend to be less common,” Arlington Urban Forest Manager Vincent Verweij said in an email Monday. “Nevertheless, if you believe you have found evidence of this pest, please let our state forestry department (and us) know, so we can all be aware of the pest’s extent.”
Several trees found locally could be endangered by the spotted lanternfly, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They include oaks, sycamore, walnut, willow, maple, pine and poplar. The USDA site, featuring several photos of the spotted lanternfly, with its wings folded and looking like a stinkbug with a spotted back, can be found here.
Alonso Abugattas, Arlington’s natural resources manager, said on his Capital Naturalist blog: “As this is an Early Detection Rapid Response invasive, please report any sightings so we can get rid of it before it gets established locally.”
Here are links for reporting sightings to the following:
Arlington Urban Forest Manager Vincent Verweij: Vverweij@arlingtonva.us
Arlington Natural Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas: Aabugattas@arlingtonva.us
Alexandria Arborist John Noelle: John.Noelle@alexandriava.gov
Alexandria Natural Resources Manager Rod Simmons: Rod.Simmons@alexandriava.gov
Falls Church Arborist Katherine Reich: firstname.lastname@example.org
Virginia Department of Forestry’s Urban Forest Conservationist Jim McGlone: email@example.com
Virginia Cooperative Extension: https://ask.extension.org/groups/1981/ask