Invasive Lanternflies From China Causing Massive Damages to U.S. Agriculture Industry

by Shelby Scott

The spotted lanternfly has been a troublesome pest plaguing many regions across the United States for years. Experts have encouraged Americans to kill lanternflies on sight, and while many continue to do so, they’re growing population in the States has become a worsening problem. With climate change, most prominently severe flooding in many regions last year followed by extreme drought this year, decreased amount of crops are at even further risk, with the invasive species causing millions of dollars in damage within America’s agriculture industry.

Forrest Gallante, an “outdoor adventurer” and spotted lanternfly expert, spoke extensively about the insect, originally from China, during an appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight.

“It is…an absolute pest,” Gallante insisted, “and it is attacking grapevines. Since 2014, they’ve spread to over 14 different states. And they are causing millions of dollars of harm to the agricultural industry.”

According to Fox News, spotted lanternflies originally made their way to the States in 2014. The troublesome insects were first detected in an overseas shipment of rocks that arrived in Pennsylvania that same year. Other invaded states include New Jersey, New York, Indiana, Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Gallante stated the pests are specifically attacking wine grapevines and have, to this point, caused some $50 million in damage in PA. Even more significant though, he continued, “now there are statements saying that these flies are attacking all kinds of fruit, which the research seems a little bit mixed, but as far as how big of a problem that is, it’s a problem as old as time, right? It’s humans and pests.”

Spotted Lanternflies Causing Serious Damage to Trees Also

Officials tasked with combatting the spotted lanternfly problem in the U.S. have taken an extremely aggressive approach. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture urges state residents to exterminate the bugs by any means possible: “Kill it! Squash it, smash it…just get rid of it.”

Sadly, while produce seems to be the insects’ dominant target, they’re also killing trees of all kinds, especially across PA. Emilie Swackhamer, a plant science expert at Penn State Collegeville said this year’s infestations especially are devastating.

“I’ve seen lanternflies build to populations where you can’t even see the bark of the tree through the insect bodies,” she said. “It’s unnerving because you wonder what that’s doing to the health of the tree.”

Nothing good. Living off of fruit, as well as ornamental and woody trees, spotted lanternflies literally suck the life out of their “prey.” Specifically, they drain the fluid from the plant tissues, leaving just a carcass behind.

Despite that agriculture departments along the East Coast have all taken a relatively aggressive approach to driving out the spotted lanternfly, they’re extremely hard to get rid of. Adult lanternflies die with the first frost of every year. However, their egg masses, found on trees, outdoor gear, and even cars, are much hardier. and with 30-50 eggs per mass, their population growth each season is uncanny.