A New Threat to Fruit and Other Trees

Spotted lanternfly image. Bug has double wings.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. An unconfirmed sighting was reported this June in Ellicott City, Md.


Brown egg mass on branch or trunk


The polka-dotted immature nymph


A later instar, with dots on red bodies





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.


Adult, wings folded

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: kreich@fallschurchva.gov

Virginia Department of Forestry’s Urban Forest Conservationist Jim McGlone: jim.mcglone@dof.virginia.gov

Virginia Cooperative Extension: https://ask.extension.org/groups/1981/ask

Read more here.

About TreeStewards

TreeStewards of Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, are trained volunteers who work to protect, preserve, and enhance urban tree canopy through public education and volunteer activities such as planting, pruning, and caring for trees.
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1 Response to A New Threat to Fruit and Other Trees

  1. tonytomeo says:

    This is one of the several problems associated with sending plants and plant parts all over the world so easily.

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