Native fungi show promise to stop spread of spotted lanternfly
Penn State and Cornell university researchers found that a common soil-borne fungi can contain the spread of the spotted lanternfly, an invasive pest threatening the grape, tree fruit, hardwood and nursery industries.
Although the spotted lanternfly is in the eastern part of the state, it’s on the move with its western population boundary in Blair County, according to for Heather Leach, spotted lanternfly extension associate at Penn State University.
“In Southwestern Pennsylvania, it could be there now and we don’t know it,” Leach said.
She advises that anyone who spots one, to contact Penn State.
“The likelihood increases as times goes on,” Leach said. “It could take several years for the lanternfly to arrive, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a detection in the fall.”
Lanternflies are great hitchhikers, according to Leach.
“They are found along rail lines and roadways. They will jump onto vehicles, in shipments, on rail cars and vehicles.”
Native to Asia, the spotted lanternfly first was discovered in the United States in Berks County in 2014. It since has spread to 14 counties in southeastern Pennsylvania and has been found in New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, according to Penn State.
“As populations of spotted lanternflies continue to put our state’s agricultural crops, economy and recreational areas at risk, it is imperative that research and education efforts be amplified,” said Rick Roush, dean of Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.
The latest research was inspired by a Cornell-led study, which showed that two fungi, Batkoa major and Beauveria bassiana, were decimating spotted lanternflies in forests near Reading.
Found naturally in soil, Batkoa major and Beauveria bassiana are native fungi that cause disease in insects but are harmless to humans. Beauveria is already an ingredient in some EPA-approved biopesticides.
When the lanternflies come in contact with the fungi, its spores germinate and colonize on the body, killing the insect within days.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter .