|A spotted lanternfly|
(Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture photo)
It's unclear how much damage lanternflies have caused, though some farmers have reported to state authorities that the pest has destroyed entire fields of crops. Berks County farmer Calvin Beekman, who has 42 acres of wine grapes, said that lanternflies decimated them, even after he sprayed with insecticides. "Last year, he harvested 62 tons, losing an estimated $100,000. This year he expects just four tons at best," Lucia reports. "In addition to sucking the life out of the grapes, the lanternflies consumed nutrients their vines depend on, weakening some to the point where Beekman said they did not survive last winter. Other plants that weathered the cold months didn’t grow properly, some with stunted shoots."
Though the lanternflies largely spared Beekman's 80 acres of apple trees, the flies are considered a threat to fruit trees, grapes, hops and hardwood timber. And because they are less picky about their diet, they could do more damage than pests like the emerald ash borer, Lucia reports.
The state and federal governments are taking the threat seriously: "Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture put forward $17.5 million to help combat the lanternfly in Pennsylvania," Lucia reports. "This money was in addition to state funds of $3 million in the most recent budget. In prior years, government spending to fight the pest in Pennsylvania was in the ballpark of $1.2 million."