PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Department of Environmental Management (DEM), in partnership with the University of Rhode Island (URI) is conducting a statewide survey of local vineyards and areas with large populations of "Tree of Heaven" plants for the spotted lanternfly (SLF), an exotic pest that targets various plants and trees.
Native to China, India and Vietnam, SLF is an invasive plant-hopper that is currently infesting portions of the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The pest has recently been detected in neighboring states and it is anticipated that it may be introduced into Rhode Island within the next few years. The closest and most current finding of SLF was in Greenwich, Connecticut, where officials recently announced the detection of a population of the pest. Single insect findings have occurred in other areas of Connecticut including West Haven in 2020, Southbury in 2019, and Farmington in 2018. Neighboring Massachusetts recently had two findings of dead SLF adults in Norwood and Milford.
To date, SLF has not been detected in Rhode Island. Earlier this year, DEM and URI held a series of public workshops to help municipalities, the grower industry, and residents prepare for and respond to this invasive pest, should it be detected in the state.
"In Rhode Island, more than 800 acres of agricultural lands including vineyards, orchards and berry farms are at risk of being infested with SLF, so it's critical that we take the necessary steps to detect and stop the spread of this invasive pest should it be found in our state," said Cynthia Kwolek, senior environmental planner and RI CAPS state survey coordinator in DEM's Division of Agriculture.
SLF is most commonly associated with "Tree of Heaven" (Ailanthus altissima) plants and also feeds on a wide variety of agricultural crops such as grape, apple and hops; and several native species of plants and trees including maple, walnut and willow.
In addition to its spotted patterning, the adult SLF's unique colors feature scarlet underwings, yellow markings on the abdomen, and tan semi-transparent forewings. Adult lanternflies are about an inch long and are active from August until the first hard freeze, which typically occurs from late October into November.
Although SLF can fly distances on its own, these pests are excellent hitch hikers and mainly spread through human movement. Their inconspicuous egg masses can be laid on pallets, vehicles and other goods, so it is important to inspect shipping materials and adhere to travel restrictions when moving through areas that are under quarantine for SLF. The following tips can help stop the spread of SLF:
• Inspect firewood, vehicles, outdoor furniture, and camping gear for egg masses, nymphs, and adults.
• If you visit states with SLF, check all your gear and equipment before leaving and scrape off any egg masses.
SLF was first detected in Pennsylvania in 2014 and has quickly spread through surrounding states. In Pennsylvania, where the pest has been spreading for over six years, there has been significant yield loss in vineyards and the insect has become a public nuisance.
To learn more about SLF, visit DEM's Agricultural Pest Alerts website at: www.dem.ri.gov/spottedlanternfly or the URI website at: https://web.uri.edu/biocontrol/spotted-lanternfly/
To report a potential finding, please visit: www.dem.ri.gov/reportspottedlanternfly
For more information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit http://www.dem.ri.gov/. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM or on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) for timely updates.