Small Bug, Big Impact: Villanova Professors Share Expertise on the Danger of Invasive Insect Species in Pennsylvania

Small Bug, Big Impact: Villanova Professors Share Expertise on the Danger of Invasive Insect Species in Pennsylvania Small Bug, Big Impact: Villanova Professors Share Expertise on the Danger of Invasive Insect Species in Pennsylvania

September 21, 20202 min read

The Spotted Lanternfly, an invasive species native to China, India, and Vietnam, arrived in Pennsylvania in 2014. It is over the last couple of years, however, that this insect has gained particular notoriety. The presence of spotted lanternflies has increased further this year in eastern Pennsylvania and these pesky bugs can have dangerous effects.


According to Dr. Vikram Iyengar, professor of Biology, “The spotted lanternflies are back and showing no signs of going away. In fact, 12 new counties in Pennsylvania were added to the quarantine zone in 2020, which indicates that the invasive insects are spreading westward within the state.” This quarantine prevents the travel of any Spotted Lantern Flies through landscaping waste, firewood, plants, and more.


Reducing the spread via quarantine is vital to minimize agricultural harm including the damage to fruit-bearing trees. These spotted lantern flies are a threat to the grape and wine production throughout the country. “The State of PA is devoting a lot of resources to figure this out, and there have been some successes – for example, New York still has not reported spotted lanternflies, which indicates that the PA quarantine has been somewhat effective. But there is still no solution yet,” said Iyengar.


So, what is the answer? Iyengar notes that the possibility of a predator species will not combat the issue. Instead, “they will need to find some special pheromone or chemical that selectively lures spotted lanternflies into traps,” added Iyengar.


Having a harsh winter this year is also key. “The fact that we had such a mild winter last year probably meant that more eggs were able to withstand the winter,” said Iyengar. “A harsh winter may be our best hope, so the persistence of the spotted lanternfly may be yet another negative consequence of climate change.”


Another invasive species currently being tracked in Pennsylvania is the Emerald Ash Borer. Dr. R. Kelman Wieder, professor of Biology, studies plant biology and believes this species, which kills ash trees, is the next big threat to trees in Pennsylvania. “I have lots of ash trees in my woods and they all are dead or dying,” said Wieder. “My house was built in the 1830s and the huge ash tree was as old as my house.”


But Wieder isn’t too worried. “Are we doomed? Well, yes and no. Eastern deciduous forests have been radically changed in the past by the chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease, yet we still have forests.”


That said, he still some concerns for the future. “On top of this, deer munch on young trees,” added Wieder. “So many Pennsylvania forests are deficient in young trees, so in 50 to 100 years, what will happen?”


To speak with Dr. Iyengar or Dr. Wieder, email mediaexperts@villanova.edu.



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