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Spotted Lanternfly Reveals a Potential Weakness

Posted by Scott Elliott, ARS Office of Communications in Research and Science
Jan 19, 2024
Adult spotted Lanternfly. (Photo by Stephen Ausmus)

USDA scientists have discovered that the spotted lanternfly, an invasive threat to fruit crops and many trees, may have an Achilles heel – an attraction to vibration.

A native of China, the insect was discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014 and has since spread to 13 other states. Though beautiful as an adult, the insect is a voracious eater that feeds on woody and ornamental trees as well as a wide variety of crops and plants. Left unchecked, Pennsylvania alone could lose hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

Richard Mankin, an entomologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology in Gainesville, FL, and colleagues found a new way to potentially corral and control the pests. Their research was published in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

“There were rumors that lanternflies are attracted to vibrations of buzzing electrical power lines, so we did a laboratory study of nymph and adult responses to 60-cycle (60Hz) vibrations,” Mankin said. “The rumor proved to be correct! Both nymphs and adults walked towards the source of [the] vibrations.”

Most power lines in North America carry alternating current electricity at a rate of 60Hz. Using vibration to entice the lanternflies to gather is a major step toward improving control methods. Mankin said that further research will focus on traps and finding ways to disrupt spotted lanternfly mating behavior.

Successful development of an integrated pest management program could result in growers using less insecticide applications – saving time, energy, and money. It could also help reduce risk of pesticide exposure to pollinators and other inadvertent impacts to the environment.

Find out more about research to combat invasive species by visiting the USDA National Invasive Species Information Center.

Category/Topic: Research and Science