Written by Karlie Haining, OMAFRA summer student
Reports of damaged vineyards and orchards in Pennsylvania raised concerns about the potential impacts this invasive insect pest could have on Ontario’s grape and wine industry. Since its detection in Pennsylvania in 2014, SLF has now infested parts of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia (https://nysipm.cornell.edu/environment/invasive-species-exotic-pests/spotted-lanternfly/spotted-lanternfly-ipm/introduction-native-range-and-current-range-us/). Capable of hitchhiking on vehicles as egg masses, the concern is that SLF could be introduced to Canada and start to wreak havoc.
What are we doing about this in Ontario? The best return on investment is in prevention and monitoring. This summer, Ontario Grape and Wine Research Inc. has funded a project through the Marketing and Vineyard Improvement Program (MVIP) to actively monitor for the arrival of SLF in southern Ontario. Between Niagara, Fort Erie, London, Essex, and Pelee Island, 65 traps have been set up on host trees near transportation corridors and tourist locations. Trees around these monitoring sites are also inspected for egg masses.
SLF favours Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissma) which is native to the same area of Asia as SLF, as well as native Black Walnut (Juglans nigra). SLF is not a “picky” eater, so it will feed on just about any woody, deciduous plant species it finds if these hosts are not available.
We are checking the traps bi-weekly for SLF nymphs and adults. In the two months since the project started, SLF has not yet been detected on our traps. The traps will be monitored until the end of October when SLF no longer actively feed on hosts.
Hopefully we will not find SLF, but in the meantime these monitoring sites are raising public awareness of the pest with public-facing information cards for curious passer-byers. With more eyes on the ground, we are more likely to intercept it sooner than later if it should arrive here.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs chose Ontario Grape and Wine Research Inc (OGWRI) to administer the Marketing Vineyard Improvement Program (MVIP). Funding for this project has been provided through MVIP for 2021-22.