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Spotted lanternfly seen for second time in Michigan

An adult spotted lanternfly with red-and-white nymphs. ARS researchers are hot on the trail of the invasive spotted lanternfly which was first sighted in Pennsylvania in 2014. Photo taken by Steve Ausmus, USDA/ARS
Stephen Ausmus
/
Courtesy of USDA-ARS
An adult spotted lanternfly with red-and-white nymphs. ARS researchers are hot on the trail of the invasive spotted lanternfly which was first sighted in Pennsylvania in 2014.

Michigan has become a home for many invasive insects over the years. One insect has yet to fully inhabit the state but has just been spotted for the second time in two years.

The spotted lanternfly is a brightly colored insect known for its red, white, black and tan appearance, as well as its spotted wings. However, they're known to suck the sap from trees and vines, damaging them and attracting other insects and even mold to the plants.

Originally from East Asia, the insect found its way to Pennsylvania in 2014 and has since spread to 13 other states in the country.

In Michigan, the bugs were first spotted in Pontiac in 2022, and they were considered an “isolated incident,” coming from a shipment of nursery trees. This year, a batch of spotted lanternflies was found in Lambertville, near the Ohio border, and this time their origins are unknown.

Michael Reinke is a viticulture specialist at Michigan State University and a trained entomologist. He said researchers have been watching the situation closely, and he believes their arrival may be part of a natural spread.

“The lanternfly has been spreading across Pennsylvania, a little bit of New York, and now it's been crossing into Ohio,” he said. “It has been found in that northern, northwest Ohio area for the last year or so anyway, so it’s not really surprising.”

Reinke said the insects are usually drawn to “woody” plants, such as oak trees and vines, but can also be found consuming crops like grapes, hops, and some tree fruits.

The insects particularly enjoy an invasive tree called the Chinese sumac or stinking sumac. Given the nickname “tree of heaven,” this plant has been found to grow in Alpena County according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

While the chances of the insect reaching this far north are limited, Reinke said it’s possible. However, he said if the insect were to appear in the county, it would be an isolated incident and the population wouldn’t be sustainable.

“(As) you get further north, you don't get as much heat,” he said. “They (spotted lanternflies) can survive until the first hard freeze. Once you start getting freezing temperatures, that kills them pretty quickly. If they don't have a chance to lay eggs before that first freeze, the population can't really sustain very well.”

At present, researchers are monitoring the situation and ensuring the population doesn’t travel far. Reinke said that while the arrival of spotted lanternflies in Michigan is imminent, he’s not concerned about it and said farmers shouldn’t be either.

“Here in Michigan and other parts of the Eastern US, they (farmers) know how to handle insect populations,” he said. “We manage insects all the time. It's going to be a public nuisance problem more than an agricultural problem, is my assumption.”

Courtney Boyd is a newsroom intern for WCMU based at The Alpena News
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