Earlier this summer, a photograph of a spotted lantern taken in southern Indiana sparked a huge effort to eradicate the insect that is on the federally regulated list of invasive species.
The photo of Vevay’s man was the first sighting of a spotted lantern in Indiana and was the most westerly of the Asian insect.
People from the state Division of Entomology and Plant Pathology and the United States Department of Agriculture visited the Switzerland County site to determine the extent of the infestation. A number of insects were found in a nearby woodland and they were all destroyed.
Efforts to understand how spotted lanterns found their way to the Indiana woodland continue, according to Megan Abraham, director of the Division of Entomology and Plant Pathology.
“We suspect someone brought it accidentally,” she said. “They usually swarm around this time of year and lay their eggs.”
The eggs look like a patch of mud spread over a tree, pole, or metal part of a railroad car, which is one of the ways the insect has spread throughout the United States since then. its discovery in Pennsylvania in 2014.
The Indiana location was nowhere near a railroad line. Often, adult spotted lanterns will feed on trees that overlook rail yards, and when full, they drop leaves to land on the nearest vertical surface. If they land on railroad cars, this is where they lay their eggs, which are then transported across the country, spreading an insect known to kill vines, fruit trees and other crops and agricultural trees.
“He’s following the train line,” Abraham said of the bug. “They’re leaving over here. “
The spotted lantern prefers the Tree of Heaven, an invasive Asian tree species found in Indiana and most other states. But the bugs don’t do much damage to these trees, so they survive and the lanterns move on to native trees and other plants that they kill.
When the lanterns gather on the vines, it changes the pH of the grapes so that they are no longer viable for making wine, Abraham said. Insects often congregate to feed on plant sap. As they feed, they excrete a sticky substance called honeydew, which falls to the ground and is a breeding ground for sooty mold. This mold can kill trees and other plants, Abraham said.
This September 19, 2019 photo shows a spotted lantern fly at a vineyard in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Teams using backpack sprayers and truck-mounted spray equipment spray the insects along railroad tracks, highways and other transportation rights-of-way, the state’s Agriculture Department said earlier this year. . Spotted lanterns have also been spotted this summer in southern Indiana, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources is urging Hoosiers to report any sightings.
Wine growers and farmers are alarmed every time a spotted lantern fly is seen in their area. Since the insect does not have a natural predator in the United States, there is concern that it could become a serious agricultural pest across the country.
The spotted lantern has previously been found on the eastern edge of Ohio, near West Virginia, Abraham said.
She is hoping that the spotted lantern has not yet made its way to any other part of Indiana and that all of Switzerland County have been eradicated.
“The best part of the story is that we wouldn’t know anything about this discovery without him looking at this walnut tree and then sending us a photo,” Abraham said of Vevay’s man. “We ended up confirming that it was in his area and that we can do something before it spreads.”
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is asking anyone who sees a spotted lantern to contact them at 866-NO EXOTIC (866-663-9684) or email [email protected]