ELKTON — Property owners in the northernmost area of Cecil County are being notified of plans by the Maryland Department of Agriculture to spray for the spotted lantern fly, an invasive species that threatens to decimate orchards, vineyards and other croplands.
Areas in Harford County will also be sprayed.
Two types of spray will be applied, with the size of the trees governing the decision, and under the guidance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We’re working with Maryland Department of Agriculture to contain, control, and suppress the isolated spotted lantern fly infestations in Cecil and Harford Counties,” said USDA’s State Plant Health Director Matthew Travis.
Spraying is expected to be completed by the end of September. In the spring, the program will resume. Tree of Heaven is the tree that SLFs appear to favor and acreage with high concentrations of these trees are in the program.
Meanwhile, researchers at Penn State University report they have made great strides in finding what works best to eradicate these invaders, which were first found in this country in 2014. Heather Leach, spotted lantern fly extension associate with Penn State Entomology, said two naturally occurring fungi are knocking back the numbers in test fields.
“We sprayed the nymphs and had a 50% loss,” Leach told the Whig Monday. Last week, a wooded lot infested with the adults was sprayed. “We are still crunching the numbers but we have our fingers crossed.”
Leach said two applications are being tested. Both have the active ingredient dinotefuran. The first possibility is to introduce the ingredient to the tree. In the same fashion as the popular flea and tick remedies for dogs and cats, the active ingredient gets into the tree and makes it entirely toxic to SLF, without being a danger to humans, pets and other wildlife.
The second is an oil-based application soaked into burlap and wrapped about the tree trunk. At the crawling stages the SLF would walk over the burlap and pick up the ingredient and die.
“We are cautiously optimistic,” Leach said.
So far, spotted lantern fly has caused millions of dollars in lost revenue in neighboring Chester and Lancaster counties in Pennsylvania. Those are two of 14 counties in the Keystone state under quarantine thanks to the spotted lantern fly.The bugs feed on more than 70 species of plants and crops including grapes, apples, peaches plus oak, pine and other trees.
Meanwhile, ag officials are urging people who find a SLF to catch it, put it in a sealed plastic bag and throw it in your freezer. Then contact the Cecil County Extension Office at 410-996-5280 for instructions.