Spotted Lanternfly Control & Treatments

Researchers find 2 fungi that kill Spotted Lanternflies

Two fungi that grow naturally in Pennsylvania killed an infestation of spotted lanternflies near Antietam Lake Park last fall, a discovery that could emerge as a biological weapon to control the spread of the invading Asian insects, according to researchers.

Researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., pinpointed the fungi as the cause of death of a number of spotted lanternflies in a wooded area near the county-owned park, according to a paper published April 22.

The paper was in PNAS, a scientific peer review journal produced by the National Academy of Sciences in Washington.

More research is needed, but the finding could lead to “one way to control the spotted lanternfly,” said Heather Leach, a spotted lanternfly extension associate at Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

“A lot of us researchers are really excited about it,” said Leach, though she cautioned that more research must be done because “there's a lot we don't know yet.”

The finding is a “step toward” controlling the spotted lanternfly, said Dr. Ann Hajek, an entomology professor at Cornell and one of the paper's authors. Additional research on the fungi will be conducted this year.

“We're going to actively study it to ensure how much we can rely on them to actively control the spotted lanternfly,” she said.

The fungi, called Batkoa major, or B. major, and Beauveria bassiana, acted as pathogens, a scientific term for agents that cause disease, on the spotted lanternflies, the paper says.

Researchers had suspected Beauveria, a soil fungus, could be a natural predator to the spotted lanternfly, but it's the first time B. major was known to kill the pests, Leach said.

An “abundant” number of dead spotted lanternflies were found Oct. 9 on trees, vines and the ground at the site, and only 12 egg masses were found despite the fact that the insect's egg-laying season already had begun, according to the paper.

B. major killed 97 percent of the dead spotted lanternflies found on trees in an area of the park in Lower Alsace Township that includes an apple orchard, according to the paper. Spotted lanternflies found on the ground were killed by a mix of Beauveria (49 percent) and B. major (51 percent).

It's uncommon to find two unrelated pathogens working in tandem to produce such a large insect kill, the paper says. In fact, little is known about B. major.

“It was killing loads of these spotted lanternflies — very exciting,” Hajek said.

B. major forms rootlike structures that can hold a host insect in place — on a tree trunk, for example — then eject spores into the insect, which can eject from the bug's cadaver, according to the paper.

Beauveria covers the insect with spores that can be spread by contact between two insects or the splash of rain, according to the paper.

Beauveria currently is used in some environmentally friendly pesticides registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, Hajek said. Researchers will study this year which pesticides are most effective.

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