‘It’s a very invasive insect.’ Vineyard and apple orchard owners fear spotted lanternfly infestation

Spotted lanternflies are everywhere in New Jersey. And while the insects may be a nuisance for people, they can be deadly for the state’s plants.
The insects can be especially devastating for New Jersey’s vineyards and orchards.
“Everybody’s like, ‘Oh look, a butterfly.’ But it’s not a butterfly, even though it has the red spots on it. It’s a very invasive insect,” says Scott Gares, winemaker at Old York Cellars in Ringoes.
The Garden State is about five years into the invasion from the spotted lanternfly – an insect that has proved to be difficult to contain.
“They’re starting to mature, so they’re starting to get wings on them and they’re going to start flying around,” Gares says.
The lanternflies have been spotted all over the state. Experts say that those who run vineyards and apple orchards should be on the lookout because the insects like to feed on the sugary sap of those plants.
“They can overwhelm the plant. They can debilitate the plant and kill the plant,” says Alejandro Calixto, director of Integrated Pest Management at Cornell University.
The bugs may not kill off this year’s crop, but they can be detrimental to future crops, which could have distressing economic impacts.
“They can devastate a vineyard completely… We’re not going to eradicate that insect, unfortunately. It’s going to stay here, so we’re just taking different steps and using different tactics to reduce the pressure in some areas,” Calixto says.
Gares says that he has to control the insects so that they do not destroy his grapevines.
“The nutrients that are going into the vine now is what’s gonna help the vine winterize. Without those nutrients, you're gonna have a weak plant, a sick plant and it's not gonna make it through the winter,” he says.
He says that this year’s crop is OK. He says his crews are out in the field daily trying to combat the invasion.
“We go through the vines, try to get them out of there as much as we can. We're always constantly going up and down the rows and trying to find out where the mass population of them are,” says Gares.
Calixto says that stomping on the bugs, as some state officials have suggested, does not make a big impact and in some cases can promote the dispersal of them. He suggests using vacuums for insect eggs and young flies and insecticides specifically for lanternflies.