It looks dressed to party, but the spotted lanternfly is a guest you definitely don’t want at the lake. Now making its way through Great Lakes states, the invasive insect with the silvery-pink lamé wings doesn’t just drain sap from trees and plants, it targets key staples of cottage weekends, including peach and apple pies, maple syrup, and—shudder—beer and wine.
“They love their wine, their hops, and fruit,” says Natural Resources Canada entomologist Amanda Roe. In parts of Pennsylvania, “infestations have led to 70 to 90 per cent crop loss in vineyards, and the death of some of the vines.”
The bug’s North American debut came in Pennsylvania in 2014. It has already reached Buffalo, N.Y., and Pontiac, Mich. “It’s quite difficult to stop,” says Natural Resources Canada researcher Anna Turbelin. Adult lanternflies and nymphs (the intermediate, beetle-like stage) don’t fly, hop, or walk far on their own, but they and their eggs are good at clinging to surfaces. “They like to hitchhike on objects—cars, wood, outdoor furniture, plants,” Turbelin says.
Roe and Turbelin have been testing the winter survival of lanternfly eggs at the Canadian Forest Service’s Great Lakes Forestry Centre in Sault Ste. Marie. After exposing the eggs to temperatures ranging from 0 to -25°C, “we’ve found they can withstand a lot of cold, and cold that would be consistent with many areas in Canada,” Roe says.
So while scientists look for other controls (including bug vacuums), Roe and Turbelin are urging cottagers to be on the lookout for the strikingly-beautiful interloper or its egg masses (often described as looking like grey chewing gum). The bugs are particularly fond of another invasive, the Tree of Heaven (a.k.a. Chinese sumac), so if you’ve got one, it may offer the first sign of an infestation. Report lanternfly sightings—on any tree—to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
“Prevention is the cheapest solution,” Roe says. “The sooner we can find them, the sooner we can deal with a small population and get ahead of any problems.”