Agricultural producers in Pennsylvania and surrounding states have been battling the Spotted Lanternfly since 2014. Management and control of this invasive species has been a major feat in the United States, and farmers in uninfected areas live with the fear that these hard to deal with bugs may move into their areas.
Since the first invasion of Spotted Lanternflies five years ago, scientists have been actively studying the creature and looking for ways to control them, however, results have been largely disappointing, and the lanternflies continue to spread.
These particular bugs have a highly varied diet, as they are able to subsist on over 70 plant species. They also are hard to keep contained to one area, as they will lay their eggs on any available surface. This leads to easy transmission from area to area, and despite quarantine efforts the lanternflies can now be found in five states throughout the northeastern United States.
However, according to Popular Science, researchers at Cornell University may have had a breakthrough recently. Two particular species of fungi, Batkoa major and Beauveria bassiana, may be farmer’s best hope for controlling Spotted Lanternfly populations.
The fungi seem to bog down the lanternflies—when infected with Batkoa major, the overgrowth of the fungus adheres the Spotted Lanternflies to trunks of trees, and when infected with Beauveria bassiana, the lanternflies are often found dead on the ground.
Scientists were at first baffled when agricultural officials began finding dead lanternflies covered with white fuzz. DNA and culture tests were run on the fuzz, and it was found to be these fungi. Since these initial findings, scientists have begun looking into the possibility of utilizing one or both fungi as part of a pest management strategy to control the Spotted Lanternfly in other areas.
While more research must still be conducted, scientists are hopeful that these fungi will help reduce populations of the Spotted Lanternfly.
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