Listen: Vineyards Facing An Insect Invasion May Turn To Aliens For Help
"Bug recently arrived from China is munching its way across eastern Pennsylvania from there. It's poised to spread across much of the country. Killing trees and grapevines finds so scientists are considering something drastic importing other insects the bugs natural enemies from the place it came from NPR's. Dan Charles has the story. I was walking around the park near Allentown Pennsylvania and I didn't even notice the bugs at first then heather leach arrived the insect expert Berg from Penn state but if you take under these leaves sure enough they're climbing up underneath the ivy and then I realized they're all over. This tree spotted lantern flies. A marching column of gray bugs each one about an inch long black spots on their wings sucking sap from the tree. They're kind of ugly especially. When there's thousands of them you'll start to poke at them and you'll see how strong hopper there you see that they've just take off could be entertaining. You see a lot of kids running around playing with them trying to stomp on them spotted lantern flies. I showed up in the United States five years ago right here in Berks County. Nobody knows exactly how some eggs probably hitched a ride on shipping containers across the specific. Now there are hordes of spreading across Pennsylvania and beyond chances are they'll eventually reach most of the country. It's an insect that lays its eggs on on anything including things that get transported hops onto vehicles and can hold on. They don't seem to have any natural enemies here but they found lots of trees with sapped that they like. They've got a buffet out here if they can eat all of these plants and they don't have anything that's down so they're having a good time. They're having a party right. Heather Leach gets panicked calls for people with swarms of lantern flies on their houses or their trees. She tells them don't freak out. These bugs won't bite or sting but but they're not a joke either they really can destroy fix and the people who are seeing this first our vineyard owners like John. Landis vine crest winery west of Allentown uh-huh going. Landis is pressing grapes smiling. Harvest is a good time. He says but then I asked him about the Lantern Flies Anthony Turns series. We've never had a situation like this and forty years. If you start to decimate your vineyard we can cause people to go out of the wiring business. It's actually actually killed funds. Oh yeah definitely kills wise. We walk out into the Vineyard and sure enough. The section next to the woods is infested with lantern flies a lot of vines. It's our dead already. From last year's attack we had lantern pipe just kind of pouring out of these trees last year invading this area here and then down on this hill vineyard owners can spray insecticides protect their crop but that's costly and it can kill helpful insects like bees and ladybugs also it doesn't help with the bigger problem. The damage lantern flies can cause to whole ecosystems leach scientists or worried. They might kill off some trees in forests were also starting to see early indications of displacement of other insects and as a result displacement of birds as well but maybe she says if the problem came from China the solution Russian could to you see back in China. The lantern fly has natural enemies that hold it in check tiny wasps so small you can barely see them scientists from the US this department of Agriculture have brought two kinds of these wasps to the United States. They're under quarantine and a couple of USDA labs like the beneficial insect introduction laugh in Newark Delaware to USDA scientists. Amanda Stout and Kim homer lead the way into the quarantine room. We're all suited up in white overalls head to toe now. Next door is high security this quarantine zone. It's filled with these environmental chambers. They look like big refrigerators. homer opens opens one up and points me towards something in sealed containers. There's a little white thing about a quarter of an inch long with a dark in there that just the cocoon. This is one stage in the life cycle of a lantern flight killing wasp. The wasp lays eggs inside baby spotted lantern flies called nymphs the eggs hatch into larvae that feet on the nips and kilter so maybe they could do this outside. The lab in Pennsylvania's forests sounds kind of crazy releasing an invader to fight another invader but homer says really it could work. There are many many examples of successful and safe introduction of natural enemies. He says it's best when the natural enemies a specialist when it only tax invasive species you're trying to control so now he's trying to figure out whether these wasps only lay their eggs in lantern flies or if they attack. North America's native insects to getting answers. We'll take years in the meantime. The lantern flies will keep on moving. Dan Charles N._p._R. News."