The public can play their part in helping to prevent an invasive species harming Niagara’s vineyards and fruit trees.
The spotted lanternfly has caused millions of dollars worth of damage to vineyards in the United States, and there are fears it could sneak across the border to Niagara.
The lanternfly, which is a planthopper rather than a true fly, can impact plant health by feeding on the sap from plants and secreting honeydew, which causes mould to grow. The stress can harm plants and even lead to death.
It has a strong preference for economically important plants such as grapevines.
The species is native to China but was found in the U.S. in Pennsylvania in 2014, where it caused huge damage to crops, including the grape and fruit tree industries.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture cited a 2019 economic impact study that estimates that if uncontrolled, the insect could cost the state $324 million annually.
Luckily, the insect has not been reported in Canada, but there are genuine fears that it could pass through the border unnoticed and become an invasive species in Niagara. That meant that once the border reopened, there was more of an urgency to prevent the importation of the insect.
One of the issues is that the egg masses laid by the insects can go unnoticed, since they resemble a smear of mud. They could be laid on a car which could then move across the border.
“That’s kind of the danger,” said Emily Posteraro, program development co-ordinator at ISC.
Now, the Invasive Species Centre (ISC) is taking steps to prevent the bug from gaining a presence in Canada, and the most important tool they have at their disposal is the watchful eye of the public.
They are asking people to learn to identify the lanternfly and to report any sightings. The insect’s preferred host is the tree of heaven but can lay egg masses on most hard surfaces, including vehicles, plants and nursery stock, stone and building materials, and shipping containers.
More information about the insect, along with diagrams to help you identify it, can be found on the ISC's website: https://www.invasivespeciescentre.ca/invasive-species/meet-the-species/invasive-insects/spotted-lanternfly/.
Anyone who spots the insect can report it on EDDMapS: https://www.eddmaps.org/ or iNaturalist: https://www.inaturalist.org/. Or you can report it to the ISC at email@example.com.
Chris Pickles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News