California vineyards threatened by wrath of grape-killing insects

What is happening

A pesky creature called the Spotted Lantern could invade beloved California vineyards as early as 2027.

why is it important

The spotted lantern is known to destroy and feed on a variety of fruits, especially stone fruits like grapes, deeply threatening California’s multi-billion dollar wine industry.

A spotted leafhopper threatens your glass of evening syrah.

It’s called the Mottled Lantern – and it really is a threat. This strange little insect feeds on a wide range of fruits and trees and is often accused of the crime of destroying crops by exuding what is called a “honeydew” which promotes toxic mold. Needless to say, this causes absolute chaos among farming communities.

The situation is, in fact, serious enough to prompt organizations like the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to call for super aggressive action like “If you see a spotted lanternfly…report it immediately online or by phone by calling the 1-888-4BADFLY”. Even the United States Department of Agriculture has stated that if you find yourself in an area known to have a population of spotted lantern flies, don’t just swat them out.

“Crush them and scrape them off,” the ministry said.

Scientists also had worrying news for grape growers, saying in a study published Wednesday in the journal Communications Biology that the spotted lantern fly is likely to invade famed California vineyards as early as 2027 — and the spotted lantern fly really (really) likes it. ) Grapes.

“This is a big concern for grape growers; it could lead to billions of dollars in losses in the agricultural sector,” Chris Jones, a researcher at the North Carolina State Center for Geospatial Analytics and lead author of the study, said in a statement. communicated. . “With this study, we have a baseline that we can use to assess the effect of different management strategies.”

Using complex computer simulations, Jones and his fellow researchers found strong evidence that the spotted lanternfly has a high probability of reaching California – the state responsible for 82% of the nation’s grapes – by 2033 and a lower, but noticeable, probability of getting there as early as 2027.

“When we say there is a ‘high’ probability of reaching these counties, we mean there are several counties that have a probability of over 50%,” Jones said.

And, though Jones said it’s hard to tell in advance what the exact impact of the spotted lanternfly will be on West Coast wine regions, “In Pennsylvania,” he said, “we saw vineyard losses from the double cold snap and mottled lanterns feeding on the vines.”

Jones also said that “we know growers can also incur losses from mold growth alone.”

First spotted in Asia, the famous spotted lanternfly has been hitchhiking around the world attaching its eggs to outdoor gear, the clothes of unfortunate passers-by and the bark of trees in transport – eventually , she traveled to the east coast of the United States. It is currently found in 11 states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

To reach its projection that California will soon be added to this list, the new study’s team paid close attention to the creature’s unique movement mechanism. They tracked the routes of vehicles and shipping equipment that may give the insect a home, in addition to other factors, between 2015 and 2019. 2014 marks the first time the insect was seen in the United States. United.

“The main reason we included proximity to the rail network in our model is that it is strongly correlated with long-distance dispersal,” Jones said. Beyond that, computer simulations have depicted the location of the spotted lanternfly’s preferred breeding grounds. It’s ironically called the Tree of Heaven, and unfortunately it grows right next to highways and train tracks with cars and trains traveling across the country.

Excellent items for lantern-spotted travelers.

“We hope this will help pest managers prepare,” Jones said of the study as a whole. According to the team, managers can create what-if management scenarios to see how different methods fare against the pesky lanternfly. “If they can start monitoring early or start treating as soon as the spotted lanternfly arrives, that could slow the spread to other areas,” Jones added. “[Winemakers] could also preemptively remove the sky tree around the vines.”

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