Invasive insect species spotted in northern Indiana

WEST LAFAYETTE — An invasive insect species that could pose risks to many fruit crops and trees has migrated to northern Indiana just a year after it was first sighted in the state’s far southeast.

A confirmed Mottled Lantern was seen in July in Huntington County, Purdue University reported Thursday.

The first sighting was reported in Switzerland County near the Ohio River, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Cliff Sadof, professor of entomology and Purdue Extension fellow, said the migration could pose “a significant agricultural risk” for grape growers, bee growers and walnut growers, according to Purdue.

The spotted lantern is native to China and was first detected in the United States in September 2014, in Pennsylvania, although it appears to have been present 2 to 3 years earlier, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

The species has been identified in at least 12 states.

Mottled Lanterns typically feed on fruit, as well as ornamental and woody trees. According to the USDA, they can spread long distances through infested materials or objects and pose the greatest risk to the US grape, orchard, and logging industries.

Their most common pathways are imported woody plants and wood products.

Elizabeth Long, assistant professor of horticultural crop entomology, said wine grape owners should learn to identify the life stages of the insect and monitor them, according to Purdue.

“Many of the insecticides grape growers currently use for other insect pests will also knock down the spotted lanternfly, so additional sprays as a preventative are not necessary at this time,” Long said. “As for next season, the same strategy is needed. It is essential to keep an eye out for spotted lanternfly hitchhikers and to avoid moving objects that may accidentally move insects. Populations of spotted lantern flies feeding on vines can dramatically reduce winter hardiness or kill the crop altogether,” Long said in a statement provided by Purdue.

Additionally, Brock Harpur, an assistant professor of entomology, said beekeeping equipment is an easy target for spotted lanterns to lay their eggs, according to Purdue.

Harpur encouraged beekeepers to check their equipment for signs of spotted lanternflies. This includes honeydew, a secretion the insect leaves behind. Honeydew usually tastes and smells like smoke and is less sweet than typical honey. Products contaminated with honeydew have a darker brown color and aftertaste.

Sadof said honeydew secretions frequently spill into homes and are difficult to remove once dried, according to Purdue.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has instructed Hoosiers to report all sightings of spotted lanternflies to [email protected], or call 1-866-No-Exotic.

Anyone who sees the insect should try to take a photo if possible, according to Sadof.