A Honeydew List
by Josh Palumbo, Forest Management Coordinator
I welcome you to The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen’s attempt to bring some nature and knowledge into your home. The Nine Minute Naturalist borrows from NPR’s lovely 90-Second Naturalist podcast. Since we all have a bit more time on our hands, the goal is to take something that is happening out in our environment and stimulate your brain for roughly nine minutes. Don’t let something as “minor” as a quarantine to keep you from learning. I hope you enjoy!
It has been a couple years since spotted lanternfly entered Virginia and has inevitably found its way to Nelson County. The time from being identified in Berks County, PA to their march down the I81 corridor has unveiled a few new wrinkles in the lanternfly’s habits and life cycle that is important for Wintergreen property owners to know. This Nine Minute Naturalist will provide a list of what has been learned to date about our newest invasive pest.
- The spotted lanternfly can certainly fly better than originally assumed. The initial thought process was that movement would only go as fast as “hitchhiking” would allow. It is true that they are master hitchhikers, in all stages of instar, but their flying prowess was underrated. At a recent forest health conference, Brian Walsh, a PSU extension agent, showed a video of them easily flying over a .4 mile wide quarry. The conventional thought was that they would fly from tree to tree slowing spreading out but half mile flights over wide open terrain certainly indicates a speedier spread.
- While tree of heaven and grape are their preferred hosts, they seem to be a bit less picky than first indicated. Tree of heaven tends to go dormant a bit earlier than many of our native species. Once this process occurs, the spotted lanternfly easily transitions to other species such as red and silver maple and black walnut. This coincides with lanternflies reaching adulthood, maximizing their ability to move and do damage. These sap suckers can do a good job thwarting photosynthesis of small maples and black walnuts.
- While it is obvious spotted lanternflies communicate in some manner in order to produce such large gatherings, no pheromone has been identified at this point that can be used as bait in traps.
- Scrapping egg masses was encouraged (and is always worthwhile when given easy access) early in the invasion. Now it is known that 98% of egg masses are laid in the canopy well outside the egg mass management zone. This cuts down on the effectiveness of manual control of lanternfly egg masses.
- The excrement from feeding spotted lanternflies, known as honeydew, was thought to be a plague to suburbia. While the honeydew is in fact gross, researchers are finding a connection between the honeydew and honeybee health. The distinct smoky smell of the honeydew apparently attracts bees, the bees feed on the honey and bulk up heading into winter. The honey produced apparently has a distinct appealing smell and taste.
Wintergreen property owners are now more informed but what should you do with this knowledge? As I have stated before, remove tree of heaven from your property if possible. It is always good to decrease non-natives, especially if they attract other invasive species. If you are considering planting a tree in your yard, avoid maple or walnuts at this time. Young landscape trees will be more likely to suffer when spotted lanternfly arrives in full. Chemical treatments are effective against the pest so consider your philosophy on spraying insecticides. Lastly, keep a watch and pass along any potential sightings to email@example.com.