LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The spotted lanternfly has climbed the ladder of invasive species of concern in New York. First seen on Staten Island in 2020, the Asia-native insect sees many agricultural products as a banquet – creating a tremendous threat for the northeast.
Grapevines, hops, and fruit trees are attractive for the insect, but its favorite is a particular tree – the “tree of heaven,” also invasive. This month, Warren County was contacted by a Lake George resident concerned to learn that they have several tree of heaven specimens on their property.
“I think it’s kind of isolated,” said Jim Lieberum of the Warren County Soil & Water Conservation District. “It would be surprising to find spotted lanternfly in the area. Hopefully, it was just a rarity, and taken care of before any other introduction.”
The report of tree of heaven specimens was handed over to the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) – an organization that has seen the tree pop up in the lower Adirondacks since the same year that the lanternfly that loves it appeared downstate. An APIPP staff member was sent out to the Lockhart Mountain Road property in question to take pictures, knock down what trees they could, and coordinate arborist attention for the rest.
The Lockhart Mountain site is one of about a dozen APIPP knows about in the Lake George and Queensbury area. APIPP Terrestrial Invasive Species Project Coordinator Rebecca Bernacki said that the tree of heaven was recently adjusted from being considered a “tier 2” species to a “tier 3.” Tier 2s are identified as species that the organization and its partners can remove.
The change is due to the fact that some landowners don’t report their trees to APIPP. If trees are spotted during APIPP surveying, landowners get letters in the mail – only some of which ever get a response.
“That doesn’t mean we’re treating it any differently,” Bernacki said. “We’d love to treat every tree of heaven in the Adirondacks.”
While visiting, the APIPP representative at the Lake George property left traps for spotted lanternflies, provided by the Department of Environmental Conservation. It’s up for debate within the scientific community whether the insect actually needs the tree of heaven in order to survive, but it’s agreed upon that they’re drawn to the tree during a life cycle.
As of this week, no spotted lanternfly infestations are known in New York. According to the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, quarantined infestations are present in Delaware and Ohio. One more in Ohio has yet to be quarantined, along with two in Indiana. One additional sighting has been reported in Washington, D.C. If the insect were to make its way to the Adirondacks, the impact could be devastating.
“My big fear is if it gets into the Champlain Valley,” said Bernacki. “We have a lot of orchards. It could kill plants in huge numbers.”
Bernacki points to similar devastation in Pennsylvania, where entire vineyards have been laid to waste by the spotted lanternfly. As of late last year, infestations were being fought in New York’s lower Hudson Valley.
If you believe you have tree of heaven specimens on your property, the first and best step is to report the finding on imapinvasives, an invasive species mapping program used by groups like APIPP to keep nature safe. Trees found anywhere around the Adirondacks can also be reported directly to APIPP. Even for those who might not want to say goodbye to a tree on their land, APIPP can use lanternfly traps and other measures. The rule is simple: If you see something, say something.
“As of right now, we haven’t found a spotted lanternfly. If we did, it would be a huge find. If you find one, please put the bug in the freezer and contact us,” said Bernacki.