INDIANAPOLIS — While this bug may have beautiful coloring and patterns, conservation leaders are asking people to be on the lookout for it before it causes major issues in the state.
On Thursday, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources said the invasive spotted lanternfly has officially migrated to northern Indiana. Cliff Sadof, professor of entomology and Purdue Extension fellow, said this migration poses a significant agricultural risk to wine grape growers and honeybee and walnut tree producers.
Sadof says while the spotted lanternfly feeds on over 100 different types of plants, it can reproduce only when feeding on walnut trees, grape vines or the tree of heaven. The damage can cause the plant to stress, draining its health and potentially killing it.
Elizabeth Long, Purdue University assistant professor of horticulture crop entomology, said one of the best defenses that wine grape growers can take against the spotted lanternfly is learning to identify the life stages of the insect and remaining vigilant in inspecting for them.
“Several of the insecticides grape growers currently use for other insect pests will also knock down the spotted lanternfly, so there is no need to make additional sprays as a preventative at this time,” Long said. “Looking to next season, the same strategy is needed. Keeping an eye out for spotted lanternfly hitchhikers and avoiding moving items that are likely to accidentally move insects along are key. Spotted lanternfly populations feeding on wine grape vines can severely reduce winter hardiness or kill the crop altogether.”
Beekeepers should also be on the lookout for the insect. Brock Harpur, Purdue assistant professor of entomology, said bee-keeping equipment can also provide the perfect spot for spotted lanternflies to lay eggs, allowing the insect to travel around the state.
“It is imperative for beekeepers to keep a careful eye out for signs of the spotted lanternfly in their area and on their equipment,” Harpur said. “Should the spotted lanternfly become established in all parts of Indiana, it is expected that honeydew, the secretion that spotted lanternfly leave behind, will become part of our late-summer honey harvest.”
Harpur added that while bees make good use of the honeydew, it isn’t desirable. It can make the honey have a smokey taste and smell and is less sweet than typical honey. The honeydew-tainted product has a darker brown color and a notable aftertaste.
While adult lanternflies have beautiful coloring and patterns, the eggs resemble a splash of mud. That is why the department encourages people to remain vigilant to keep populations in check.
Anyone who spots the insect should photograph it and send the image and location to DEPP@dnr.in.gov, or call 1-866-No-Exotic.