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Son of Stink Bug: New Chinese pest threatens hops, grapes vines

Spotted lanternfly nymph. Credit: itchydogimages

Some 20 years after the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug landed from China and spread to virtually every state where it attacked fruits and invaded homes by the billions, a new Chinese pest has arrived to attack grape vines, hops and trees.

Just like the Stink Bug, the “Spotted Lanternfly,” native to China, India and Vietnam, showed up first in Pennsylvania and has just been found in Winchester, Va., home to the state’s apple industry.

Where the Stink Bug attacks fruits like apples, grapes and peaches, the Lanternfly is a sap sucker, turning it into a potential tree killer.

But even worse, it goes on a feeding rampage in the late summer and fall when fruits, wine grapes and hops for beer are ready to pick. As a result of its huge appetite, it poops out a slick of sugar on everything it crawls over and that molds pretty fast.

“It’s a nuisance and it’s an unsightly fungi,” said Tracy Leskey, the U.S. Agriculture Department director who leads the research on the Stink Bug and is part of the Stop BMSB project.

And, she said, it also smears the surfaces of everything from trees to lawn furniture with eggs it covers with a waxy material. She called it “gooey and sticky,” adding, “that’s not nice.”

Added an arborist from Bartlett Tree Experts, “the insect has the potential to greatly impact the grape, hops and logging industries…if not contained, it will not be long before it is killing plants in the landscape.”

As with the stink bug, said Leskey, there are other bugs that destroy Spotted Lanternfly eggs but it will take time to test them.

In the meantime, she suggests that egg masses be scraped off flat surfaces where they are laid in the fall.

Her USDA group and others have a good record in aiding native killers, having fostered a tiny wasp from China that is effective in destroying Stink Bug eggs.