September 29, 2023

Reed & Whitehouse Shine a Light on Invasive Spotted Lanternfly Infestations

To save local trees, agriculture, and jobs, U.S. Senators help secure $132,000 to target & eliminate harmful pests in RI and advocate passage of the Spotted Lanternfly Research and Development Act

PROVIDENCE, RI –  In an effort to prevent the spread of destructive, invasive spotted lanternflies — which are harmful to plants and agriculture — from taking hold in Rhode Island, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse are teaming up to squash the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), directing $132,474 in federal funds to Rhode Island to keep the pests from spreading and damaging local plant life as well as the state’s nursery and landscaping industry.  If left uncontrolled, the invasive pests could affect ecological stability and cost Rhode Island millions of dollars in economic damage.

The spotted lanternfly is an inch long moth-like insect that is native to China.  Noted for its black spots and red underwings, these planthoppers feed on a wide range of fruit, ornamental, and hardwood trees, including maple, oak, pine, poplar, sycamore, and willow trees.  The insects suck sap out of plant stems and branches, which can weaken and kill plants.  It also leaves behind a sticky, sugary waste matter called ‘honeydew,’ which promotes the spread of sooty mold that further harms the plant.

The invasive pest was first detected in Pennsylvania in 2014 and has since spread to surrounding states by attaching itself and its eggs to vehicles and cargo.  Spotted lanternflies are now found in fourteen U.S. states, including most of the mid-Atlantic region and parts of the Northeast and Midwest (Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia).

DEM reports that the Spotted Lanternfly is a threat to northern Rhode Island’s trees and crops.  Last month, DEM commissioned spraying for the pests along Route 7 and Route 146 in Lincoln, North Providence, and Smithfield.

The $132,000 in federal funding is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which works closely with state departments of agriculture and cooperators to minimize the risk of artificial spread by focusing primary control measures on high-risk transportation and commodity pathways. Additionally, APHIS supports survey and outreach activities.

Reed and Whitehouse are also cosponsors of the Spotted Lanternfly Research and Development Act (S. 1837).  This bipartisan bill would designate the Spotted Lanternfly as a high-priority research initiative for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  This high-priority designation would authorize the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to make competitive grants available for research projects related to the mitigation of this invasive species and find creative solutions to stop the spread.  The bipartisan bill is led by U.S. Senators John Fetterman (D-PA) and Bob Casey (D-PA) and supported by Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and others.

“The spotted lanternfly is an invasive species that doesn’t belong in Rhode Island and has the potential to wreak havoc on our environment and economy.  These federal funds will help study and combat the spread of spotted laternflies.  In addition to pest eradication and mitigation, this federal aid supports Rhode Island farmers, homeowners, communities, and our economy,” said Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, who helped secure more than $24 million for USDA spotted lanternfly eradication and containment last year.  “We are grateful to USDA for partnering with Rhode Island and other states to ramp up control of this pest.  The federal government must continue doing its part to reduce the damage caused by spotted lanternflies through safe, strategic management tactics.”

“The spotted lanternfly could cause real problems for Rhode Island’s environment as well as our landscaping and agricultural industries.  We are boosting the state’s efforts to limit growth of this invasive pest,” said Senator Whitehouse.

Rhode Islanders can learn more about the spotted lanternfly by visiting the USDA’s Spotted Lanternfly page and joining the battle to beat the bug.  DEM encourages Rhode Islanders who spot a suspected lanternfly to kill the insect, collect a specimen, and report it to: www.dem.ri.gov/reportspottedlanternfly

Homeowners are encouraged to do their part by educating themselves about the species and taking steps to eradicate them from their property.  And there is special section for how local businesses can do their part.

Currently, most of Rhode Island’s spotted lanternfly are now in the adult stage.  Egg masses typically begin to appear in September and, unlike the adults, survive the winter.  The egg masses can produce about 30 to 50 nymphs that hatch in late April or early May and grow to adulthood by late July or early August.

If you see a spotted lanternfly of any life stage in Rhode Island, the best thing to do to stop their spread is to kill it and destroy the egg masses.

Chip Unruh (Reed), 202-224-4642

Meaghan McCabe (Whitehouse), (202) 224-2921

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