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Invasive insect species has migrated to northern Indiana, Purdue says

Spotted Lanternfly
Posted at 2:25 PM, Aug 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-19 15:38:00-04

WEST LAFAYETTE — An invasive insect species that could pose risks to many fruit crops and trees has migrated to northern Indiana just a year after its initial sighting in the state's far southeast corner.

A confirmed spotted lanternfly was seen in July in Huntington County, Purdue University reported Thursday.

The first sighting was reported in Switzerland County near the Ohio River, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Cliff Sadof, a professor of entomology and Purdue Extension fellow, said the migration could pose "significant agricultural risk" to wine grape growers, honeybee producers and walnut tree producers, according to Purdue.

The spotted lanternfly is native to China and was first detected in the U.S. in September 2014, in Pennsylvania, although it appeared to have been present 2-3 years beforehand, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The species has been identified in at least 12 states.

Spotted lanternflies typically feed on fruit, as well as ornamental and woody trees. They can spread long distances through infested materials or items and pose the largest risks to the U.S.'s grape, orchard and logging industries, according to the USDA.

Their most common means of introduction include imported woody plants and wood products.

Elizabeth Long, an assistant professor of horticulture crop entomology, said wine grape owners should learn to identify the insect's life stages and be on the lookout for them, according to Purdue.

“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," Long said in a statement provided by Purdue.

Additionally, Brock Harpur, assistant professor of entomology, said beekeeping equipment is an easy target for spotted lanternflies to lay their eggs, according to Purdue.

Harpur encouraged beekeepers to check their equipment for signs of spotted lanternflies. That includes honeydew, a secretion the insect leaves behind. Honeydew typically has a smokey taste and smell and is less sweet than typical honey. Products tainted by honeydew has a darker brown color and an aftertaste.

Sadof said honeydew secretions frequently spread across homes and are difficult to remove when dried, according to Purdue.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has asked Hoosiers to report all spotted lanternfly sightings to, or call 1-866-No-Exotic.

Anyone who spots the insect should try to take a photo if possible, according to Sadof.