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Experts warn about invasive insect discovered in Tri-State

Handsome bug? Maybe. But wine-lovers beware, it’s coming for your grapes.
Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 10:09 PM CDT
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SWITZERLAND COUNTY, In. (WXIX) - An invasive insect has been spotted in the Tri-State, prompting Indiana state officials to warn people about the pest.

For the first time ever, the spotted lanternfly has made its way to Switzerland County, Indiana. A man noticed the insect on a walnut tree in his yard in Vevay, so the state sent out an inspector.

State Entomologist Megan Abraham said they discovered a population of the nuisance pests that had been there for a few years.

She said they typically target trees, and so far, they have been found feeding on more than 100 different species of trees, including oak, maple and fruit trees.

“They feed in this mass group that can reduce the vigor of the trees that are in our woodlots,” Abraham said. “The worst about them honestly is that they enjoy feeding on grape as well.”

According to Abraham, the lanternfly is cause for concern because it has the power to damage vineyards and negatively impact the forest and logging industry.

“They tend to come in and change the pH of the grapes on the vine, which makes them unusable for making wine any longer, so that’s our biggest concern is for our vineyards,” she said.

The insects are considered a “planthopper,” which means they travel easily.

“The adults will fly or float out of those trees and into anything passing by,” Abraham said. “They’ve been managing to hitchhike on freight trains out toward the western states, which is how they think they ended up in Ohio so quickly. They’re actually on the border there of Ohio and West Virginia.”

Officials are now working on removing the Vevay infestation, but Abraham said everyone should be aware of the pests and report any sightings.

““We don’t want this pest spreading to any of the wine industry in Indiana, or spreading out further from where it currently is,” she said.

The director of the Boone County Arboretum warned Kentuckians about the lanternfly in a social media post.

Anyone who sees a spotted lanternfly in Indiana can report the sightings to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. by calling 866-NO EXOTIC (866-663-9684) or emailing DEPP@dnr.IN.gov. Abraham said photos of the insects are especially helpful.

Those who would like to report a sighting in Ohio or Kentucky can contact their state’s Department of Natural Resources.

To learn more about the insect, click here.

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