Jun 9, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Invasive spotted lanternfly could threaten California’s wine grapes

Two adult spotted lanternfly on the side of a tree in Shillington Park Wednesday morning October 27, 2021.

Two adult spotted lanternfly on the side of a tree. Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

North Carolina researchers warned in a new study that the invasive spotted lanternfly could soon spread across the United States and put California's wine grapes at risk.

Why it matters: The invasive species destroy fruit and crops, making them a huge economic problem for growers and farmers.

Details: North Carolina State University researchers found there's a chance the lanternfly, which is usually about an inch long and covered in polka dots, could spread to California's grape-producing regions by 2027.

What they're saying: “This is a big concern for grape growers; it could lead to billions of dollars of losses in the agricultural sector,” the study’s lead author Chris Jones said in a news release. “With this study, we have a baseline that we can use to evaluate the effect of different management strategies.”

By the numbers: The United States' grape production is valued at roughly $6.5 billion with California producing 82% of the United States' grape crop alone, according to the study, which was published in the journal Communications Biology.

Zoom out: If left unchecked, the lanternfly could invade the entire country by 2037, the study said, putting crops such as apples, hops and almonds at risk too.

  • The lanternfly sucks the sap out of plants and crops, leaving the fruit permanently damaged, the researchers said.
  • As the bugs feed, they excrete sap as a sugary waste called honeydew, the researchers said. This will lead to the growth of a fungal disease called sooty mold, per The Washington Post.
  • “The honeydew fouls foliage and fruit. The fruit becomes unmarketable, thus presenting a huge economic problem for growers of apples, cherries, peaches and grapes,” Michael Raupp, professor of entomology at the University of Maryland, told The Washington Post.
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