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Spotted lantern flies are attacking the state's fruit crops.

July 07, 2017

Not long ago, if you arrived at someone’s house with an American-produced wine from a state other than California, you’d be laughed out of the dinner party. But now, from New York to Oregon and plenty of places in between, amazing wines are surprisingly easy to find in areas you might not have expected. Virginia, Texas, Ohio and Michigan are just some of the names you might not expect to see on a list of states with the most wineries. According to Statista, Pennsylvania ranks seventh on that list with 229 wineries as of this year – and is a state that’s seen its wine producing reputation improving as well. However, currently, Pennsylvania’s biggest problem might not be from wine critics, but from invasive critters.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in 2014, the Keystone State earned an unfortunate distinction as the first American home for the spotted lanternfly. Originally, from China, India and Vietnam, this invasive species of crop loving planthopper was initially spotted in PA’s Berks County that September and has since spread to five other counties on the eastern side of the state. “This pest poses a significant threat to the state’s more than $20.5 million grape, nearly $134 million apple, and more than $24 million stone fruit industries, as well as the hardwood industry in Pennsylvania which accounts for $12 billion in sales,” the Department of Agriculture stated.

Spotted lanternflies, which have distinct black spots and red patches on their wings, can be especially detrimental to the wine industry. Beyond simply snacking on plants, the bugs leave behind a sticky waste product called “honeydew” which can lead to the growth of sooty mold and, in turn, can eventually kill the vines. And even if the plants survive, honeydew can still ruin the quality of a wine by affecting fermentation.

The Department of Agriculture warns that it’s not just Quaker country that’s in trouble. If something isn’t done to stop the spread of these pests, they could potentially reach the entire US. So to help out, Pennsylvania maintains a site dedicated to learning about, tracking and exterminating the spotted laternfly and even has an email – Badbug@pa.gov – for reporting sightings. Yeah, that’s how bad this bug is: They know which bug you’re talking about. “Right now they’re faster than us, but we’re getting better,” Department of Agriculture entomologist Sven-Erik Spichiger told the Post-Gazette. Sounds like someone should have told those little buggers not to mess with our wine!