OTTAWA – The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is asking Canadians to keep an eye out for an invasive insect that could spell disaster for wineries and fruit growers across the country.
The spotted lantern is a pest native to China that has been making inroads into the United States since 2014.
So far, the small gray and red insect with spotted wings has not been found alive in Canada.
But in early September, hundreds of adults were found in a residential area of Buffalo, New York, just 45 km from the Canadian border.
The reports set off alarm bells at the CFIA, which in a tweet last week asked Canadians to “immediately” report any sightings of the pest on this side of the border.
The insect feeds on the sap, mainly of fruit trees, and can cause serious damage to orchards and vineyards.
“We are increasingly concerned about the proximity to Canada, and in particular our grape industries, as this is a pest that has had significant impacts on the grape and fruit industry in the United States. said Diana Mooij, an invasive alien species program specialist with the CFIA.
The first North American sighting of the pest was in Pennsylvania in 2014, and since then a monitoring program monitored by Cornell University has documented the pest in 14 US states.
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware have the most sightings, along with areas in and around New York. It has been found as far east as Rhode Island, as far south as North Carolina, and as far west as Indiana.
The Buffalo sightings were the first to occur near the Canadian border.
Mooij says dead adults have been found on trucks in Canada. She says the females lay their eggs on almost anything stored outside.
“It’s a pest that unfortunately can travel on all sorts of things,” she said. “It doesn’t just travel on plants, it can travel on shipping containers, trucks, cars, and camping gear.
“We ask everyone to be extra vigilant in searching for this pest, especially if they have been to areas of the United States where the pest is found,” she said.
Mooij says the insect is very distinctive, with its mottled wings, a pinkish tint when the wings are closed, and a bright red coloration when the wings are open.
Insects need large amounts of sap to survive. Signs of their presence can include trees with large amounts of sap weeping over the bark.
Insects produce a sweet waste product called “honeydew” that attracts pollinators like bees and wasps and can cause fungus and mold to grow on trees, which can damage them.
Pennsylvania says an analysis in 2019 showed the insect could cause more than $300 million in damage to its economy annually.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 26, 2022.
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