Pennsylvania receiving $1.5 million federal grant to fight spotted lanternfly

U.S. & World

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The United States Department of Agriculture is giving Pennsylvania an additional $1.5 million to fight spotted lanternflies through the Plant Protection Act.

“The spotted lanternfly is still considered an agricultural emergency,” said Shannon Powers, press secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

The flies have flown the coop to nine states, killing acres of grapes along the way.

“The lantern flies feed on the grape vines and then that leaves them vulnerable to winter temperatures,” said Emelie Swackhamer, horticulture educator, PennState Extension.

Meanwhile, the fight against the flies is heating up. Experts said the USDA’s grant will fund continued research, like studying Asian birds and fungi that already kill the flies.

“I’m hopeful that — you know — maybe, somewhere along the road these natural factors might help us stabilize the populations, and that’s kind of a long-term goal,” Swackhamer said.

In the short term, it’s critical to report fly egg masses to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

“You’re not gonna hear back right away, but it does go into a database, and every report, a team follows up on,” Powers said.

Although, don’t wait for the team to destroy the egg masses. Powers said you can use any tool to destroy the eggs, which hold between 30 to 50 flies.

“Especially if your kids are driving you crazy in the house, send them out to hunt lantern flies, egg masses in your yard,” Powers said.

While this may be the latest emergency, experts said it won’t be the last.

“As we learn from the situation that is unfolding with spotted lantern fly, and we have resources to better address these issues, it will helps us with the other times, too,” Swackhamer said.

These funds will support projects covering a range of plant health and pest mitigation activities, including:

  • $354,690 for spotted lanternfly (SLF) outreach and education to raise public awareness about the pest in the State;
  • $219,290 to improve detection and suppression of SLF;
  • $157,219 to prevent the spread of SLF through automated detection and citizen science;
  • $135,437 to support the Sentinel Plant Network, which contributes to plant conservation nationwide by engaging public garden professionals, volunteers, and visitors in the detection and diagnosis of high consequence pests and pathogens;
  • $91,434 to monitor satellite populations of SLF in the State; and
  • $80,000 to support orchard surveys in the State.

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