Farmers in Iowa and across the Midwest are keeping a lookout for an exotic bug that was found in Kansas earlier this month. The spotted lanternfly has bright red hind wings with black spots.
Robin Pruisner, with the Iowa Department of Agriculture, says the insect could harm nursery stock and woody plants like trees, shrubs, and raspberries. “They tend to leave behind a sticky substance while they’re feeding and that substance is really good at growing mold,” Pruisner says, “then you can have other plant pathogens or diseases move in and it reduces the quality of the crop.”
The state ag department says it beefed up public outreach since the Kansas find. Iowa State University entomologist Donald Lewis says this pest and its “piercing-sucking mouthparts” feed on sap, which will weaken lots of fruit and woody trees. Lewis says, “Eventually, these insects could feed on the sap from dozens and dozens of different kinds of plants, causing problems for us.”
Kansas and federal officials are investigating after one of the bugs was found in a 4-H project. Native to Asia, the spotted lanternfly was first seen in Pennsylvania in 2014 and is a skilled hitchhiker. The Iowa and Nebraska ag departments have both received reports of possible sightings of the insect, but so far they’ve all been false alarms.
(By Katie Peikes, Iowa Public Radio)