Though dead, the invasive spotted lanternfly found recently in a shipment of ceramic pots at an Oregon nursery, is an ominous find for the West Coast wine industry.
“We are grateful to the nursery for alerting us about their discovery,” Helmuth Rogg, plant protection and conservation programs director for the Oregon Department of Agriculture, said in a news release about the SLF detection on Thursday. “We cannot be everywhere, that is why it is so critical to have the support of our industry and all Oregonians in detecting invasive pests such as the spotted lanternfly before it becomes widespread.”
The swarm-feeding sap sucker has a wide host range of trees and vines, but it can kill grapevines in a season, according to researchers in Pennsylvania, where SLF was first detected in 2014. It is a major vineyard pest in its native Korea.
Despite quarantine restrictions in place in the Mid-Atlantic, SLF has spread to 11 Eastern states, from Massachusetts to North Carolina.
Scientists warn that if introduced, SLF would be able to establish well in the regions of Washington that are home to most of the state’s vineyards, along with the growing regions in Oregon and California.
It also appears to be a strong hitchhiker, so West Coast growers have been warned to keep an eye out for the distinctive insects. Their gray egg masses, which they lay indiscriminately, pose the greatest risk for spread, Washington State Department of Agriculture entomologist Sven-Erik Spichiger warned Washington grape growers at an industry meeting last year.
“Here’s the real issue: These things love to lay eggs on rusty metal, like a railcar, so it has high risk of transport,” he said. “Make no mistake about it; it is coming here and probably quicker than you think.”
In Oregon, officials urged anyone who believes they have found SLF to notify ODA immediately by phone at 1-800-525-0137 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. In Washington, send pictures to email@example.com or call 360-902-2042.
—by Kate Prengaman