Michigan could soon face a new invasive species

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Capital News Service

LANSING — A rapidly spreading invasive species may soon be on its way to Michigan.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is asking state resident to keep an eye out for the spotted lanternfly.

“The spotted lanternfly is an insect that has the potential to seriously affect Michigan’s agriculture and natural resources,” said Jennifer Holton, the department’s communications director.

The bug is native to Asia and arrived in Pennsylvania in 2014. It can damage or kill more than 70 types of crops and plants including grapes, apples, hops and hardwood trees.

“It has not been detected in Michigan yet and we certainly don’t want it here,” Holton said. “But early identification is critical to being able to have containment and eradication of any invasive species.”

The adult insect is about an inch long with brown wings covered in black dots. Opened wings reveal a black and yellow body and bright red hind wings. Its eggs resemble patches of old chewing gum.

The spotted lanternfly attacks by sucking sap out of plants and leaving behind a sugar-rich, sticky liquid called honeydew, which results in a black mold that can kill the plant. Honeydew also attracts other pests, such as hornets and ants, which can complicate crop harvests.

The grape industry is in the most danger, according to fruit and pest expert Mark Longstroth of Michigan State University Extension. He said Pennsylvania, where the bug was first sighted in the U.S., the fly has killed grape vines.

“The grapes are weakened going into the winter, and then they don’t survive,” he said.

Although most crops will likely be unharmed by the bug, fruits are in danger, Longstroth explained. He said he expects the lanternfly to show up in Michigan eventually.

“Whether or not it will become a pest is another question entirely,” he said. “But it will probably migrate into fruit plantings, especially grapes.”

Spotted lanternflies don’t fly far, but they lay eggs everywhere. The Department of Natural Resources asks travelers to check cars, trailers, firewood and outdoor equipment for signs of the bug before leaving an area.

Cassidy Hough reports for Interlochen Public Radio and Great Lakes Echo.

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