Spotted lanternfly poses threat to Illinois vineyards

A specialty crop entomologist says Illinois grape growers have the most at stake following the detection of spotted lanternfly in the state.  

Kacie Athey with the University of Illinois tells Brownfield the invasive insect feeds on vines and leaves a residue that can attract other pests.

“And you can get what’s called sooty mold, which is another thing that will grow on the leaves and create issues with the plant, sometimes making it so the plant isn’t getting as many nutrients as it needs to.”

She says spotted lanternflies also feed on seedling trees so high populations could have a negative effect on agritourism venues.

Athey says when it comes to management, there are high-efficacy pesticides available.

“We also have research that shows that putting row covers over grapevines between August and September can reduce those spotted lanternfly feedings and help prevent them from getting to the vine.”

She says its favorite food source is an invasive tree known as Tree of Heaven, so she recommends removing those trees especially near vineyards and orchards.

Athey encourages anyone who sees a spotted lanternfly to take a photo and send it along with location details to [email protected] to help track the pest and get ahead of potential invasions.

She says spotted lanternfly was first detected in the US on the east coast less than a decade ago and is quickly moving westward. There have been confirmed populations in eastern corn belt states including Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and most recently Kentucky. The first sighting in Illinois was confirmed in Cook County in September.

Audio: Interview with Kacie Athey

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