Raid may “Kill Bugs Dead,” but truckers are being enlisted in a campaign to help stop the spread of a voracious invasive insect that authorities say is making its way deeper into the Northeast and Middle-Atlantic states by hitching rides on commercial vehicles.
The Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is among the latest invasive pests to arrive on our shores via shipments of goods from China. This bug is thought to have first gotten here in 2013 by way of imported woody plants, wood products, and other commodities. It was first spotted in Berks County, Pennsylvania (centered around Reading), in 2014.
The invasive “plant hopper,” which is visually striking and looks unlike any other insect in the Eastern U.S, has to date been found not only in 13 counties in the southeastern part of the Keystone State, but also (to varying degrees) in Delaware, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
The Spotted Lanternfly has a voracious appetite and not much in the way of native predators to keep it in check as it feasts on all sorts of host plants, including apples, plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, almonds, and pine. It also feeds on oak, walnut, poplar, and grapes.
According to Invasive.org, if allowed to spread in the U.S., “this pest could seriously harm the country’s grape, orchard, and logging industries,” estimates for the cost of which sail into the billions.
But what makes this colorful pest really stand out is that standard-issue quarantines are not enough to control its spread. Apparently, that’s because these bugs are adept at getting from one field of plunder to another by hopping onto trucks, even worming their way into wheel wells and tire treads.
That’s why those operating commercial vehicles that travel through quarantined areas of Pennsylvania are required to obtain a Spotted Lanternfly permit to move equipment and goods within and out of the quarantine zone.
The permit costs nothing, but to get one, a designated employee must complete a two-hour training course on how to find and destroy the spotted lanternfly and related topics.
The “fast-paced” program is designed to work as a “train the trainer” effort, according to the course’s developer, Penn State Extension.
“Once a designated employee passes this course, his or her company will receive Spotted Lanternfly permits for company vehicles,” Penn State Extension explains on its website. “The designated employee must train fellow employees to work in the quarantine zone without inadvertently spreading these insects and endangering agriculture and commerce.”
Downloadable training materials in English and Spanish are available for the course; these include PowerPoint presentations and fact sheets.
For questions on registering for the train-the-trainers, go to: Penn State Extension Contact Us.
For questions about the permitting process itself, email the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture: email@example.com.