Inch-long bug damages maple trees
by Lou Varricchio
MIDDLEBURY | Vermont researchers have been dealing with a growing list of invasive threats since the 1980s. Zebra mussels, milfoil, even unusual mosquito-borne viruses such as West Nile Virus, have been in the news for the past 15 to 20 years. Now the latest biological threat on the local horizon, a destructive Asian insect, is the Spotted Lanternfly abbreviated as SLF.
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) said its officials were alerted Aug. 19 that a live lanternfly was captured on an unidentified shipment delivered in Rutland.
The suspected SLF was first brought to the Vermont Forestry Building, by a citizen, at the Rutland State Fair on Aug. 17 for identification.
“Recognizing the insects as unusual, at the time of delivery the insects were either killed or captured, and one live sample was delivered to officials for identification,” according to a news statement by VAAFM’s Scott Waterman. “At this time, no other evidence of the insects has been discovered by responding Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR) officials, or VAAFM staff.
Waterman’s news update indicated that treatment was made of the Rutland shipment with insect traps set near where the truck was unloaded. VAAFM staffers will check the traps every two weeks.
Also, VAAFM staff combed a ¼ mile radius from the lanternfly’s Rutland “ground zero”, looking for walnut and willow trees, and the “tree of heaven” (another Asian invasive) which are prime hosts for the alien bioinvader.
Yet, Waterman stressed that the “location and immediate eradication of this pest represent a regulatory incident, and is considered resolved.
According to VVAFM, “agricultural fruit crops such as grape, apple, cherry, and peach are all susceptible to damage caused by spotted lanternfly, as well as economically valuable hardwood trees including maple, oak, and walnut species. The invasive ‘tree of heaven’ is the preferred host plant of the pest when it is present but unfortunately, SLF also feeds on over 70 different plant species.”
“While this is a concerning discovery and we take this development very seriously, we also have no knowledge that this indicates a larger problem in Vermont at this time,” said Cary Giguere, director of plant health and agriculture resource management at VAAFM. “We will take all the steps necessary to determine how large a problem this might be, but what’s more important is that people keep their eyes open for this invasive and destructive insect, and let us know immediately if you find any…even as few as one.”
So, how worried should we be?
While VAAFM said the Rutland case is resolved, it is never-the-less asking residents to be vigilant and be on the lookout for more SLFs. And Vermonters know all too well that when it comes to bugs, where there’s one there are usually others.
If you think you see this insect, notify the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks, and Recreation, or http://www.vtinvasives.org.