As spotted fly eggs hatch across Pennsylvania, authorities begin using new sprays and a dog to deal with the pest

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Western Pennsylvania may miss the sights and sounds of Brood X’s cicadas, but another bug is making its presence known in the area: the spotted lantern. Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture officials are hoping their new weapon in the state’s fight against the pest – a dog named Lucky – can help.

The two-year-old German Shepherd was trained as a puppy at PennVet’s Working Dog Center to detect spotted lantern eggs. Lucky helps inspect businesses like nurseries, greenhouses, vehicle fleets, and log yards. She is the first dog in the country trained to detect the spotted lantern fly.

“We try to focus on the areas that [human inspectors] might not be able to get [to] very easily, ”said Shane Philipps, Department of Agriculture compliance and enforcement specialist and manager of Lucky. These areas can include truck wheel arches, piles of material like gravel, and piles of pallets.

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Lucky, a two-year-old German Shepherd, was trained to detect spotted lantern eggs.

The dog joined the department in November last year and inspected nurseries, greenhouses, vehicle fleets and log yards.

Lucky is one of the few tools the department uses to contain the spotted lantern fly. Others include circular traps, sticky tapes, and a list of insecticides. There are 34 counties under quarantine that require public education and spotted lantern containment training for businesses. Now officials are trying everything but the kitchen sink to fend off the virus.

“Sometimes the kitchen sink works too,” joked Ruth Welliver, director of the Bureau of Plant Industry at the State Department of Agriculture. “We spray bifenthrin, which is a contact spray to kill nymphs… we have a systemic spray… that gets in and travels inside the tree. So only the things that feed on the tree are killed by this chemical.

Allegheny and Beaver counties were added to the spotted lantern quarantine map last year. Westmoreland County was added this year. Agriculture officials said on Tuesday that it may still be possible to contain the pest in western Pennsylvania in a way officials couldn’t when the virus first arrived in County of Berks in 2014.

“It’s at very low concentrations now. So if we put a lot of effort into trying to control and contain it here, we can prevent it from spreading elsewhere, ”said Rick Roush, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State University.

Roush was joined by Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy administrator Carlos Martinez and chairman of Eichenlaub landscape contractor Dan Eichenlaub in Allegheny County on Tuesday. The men discussed the growing presence of the spotted lantern fly in western Pennsylvania and the responsibility of all Pennsylvanians to do their part to contain the pest.

“It’s a really important step for us to be able to intervene early and take advantage of the fact that the populations here are so small. To really use what we have learned over the last few years in the East to manage it more effectively.

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A yard sign created by Penn State Extension reminds Pennsylvanians to check their vehicles for spotted lantern signs before leaving home.

A tool to contain the spread of the spotted lantern fly is a requirement for all businesses in quarantined counties to hold a spotted lantern fly permit. The permit requires companies to maintain a skilled workforce committed to taking action to prevent the pest from being transported across state or county borders.

Permit is required and violations could result in fines of up to $ 300. But Secretary Redding noted that companies with spotted fly permits were also making a wise business decision.

“[Permits ensure] the people they do business with take all possible precautions, ”he said. The state created a spotted lantern fly business tool kit to help businesses learn about the spotted lantern fly, whether or not they need a permit and what the responsibilities of holding a permit are.

Licensed companies should inspect incoming and outgoing goods and materials for signs of spotted flies, incorporate pest management into vegetation management plans, and ensure that suppliers have permits and safeguards to prevent spotting. spread of the pest.

“The spotted lantern fly is the worst insect in the Commonwealth and is capable of causing real damage to Pennsylvania’s $ 132.5 billion agricultural industry,” Redding said. “Over the past seven years we have seen lanterns travel from east to west across the Commonwealth. We saw devastated vineyards. It is environmentally, socially and economically invasive.

The state’s Department of Agriculture is working with Penn State Extension to teach residents how to contain and manage the spotted lantern fly around their homes. Researchers are still studying the basic biology of the bedbug, its food preferences, the economic damage it can cause, and effective methods of chemical control and detection.

“[The] The spotted lantern fly is a complex pest, but we are making discoveries and sharing those findings as soon as possible with the public and stakeholders in government and industry, ”said Roush.

2019 economic impact study estimates that if the insect goes unchecked, it could cost the state dearly $ 324 million per year and over 2,800 jobs. Redding noted that the invasive species also degrades the quality of life.

Heavily populated areas of spotted lanterns are often sticky. When the insect feeds, it excretes a sweet substance called honeydew which causes black sooty mold to form. This mold damages plants and attracts biting insects. The substance can coat decks, outdoor furniture, play equipment and vehicles.

Spotted Lanterns kill saplings, sumac, grapevine, and sky tree and can damage a list of other tree species.

Secretary Redding pleaded Tuesday for residents of Pennsylvania to know if they live or work in a quarantined county and do their part to deal with the spread of the spotted lantern fly. Residents who spot an egg mass should destroy it by scraping it into a bag with rubbing alcohol. Residents who find an adult nymph or spotted lantern should squash the pest. Authorities are also asking that all sightings of the spotted lantern fly be reported to the state Department of Agriculture. Residents can fill out an online form or dial 1-888-4BADFLY (1-888-422-3359).

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