Who invited them to our place?

Spotted lanternfly nymphs (black and white) and final stage nymph (red, white, and black.) Photo by w/pic/Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

GHENT—Do you know what’s growing or crawling around in your backyard?

We are currently in the midst of the state’s ninth annual Invasive Species Awareness Week—so it’s a good time to find out.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) offers a load of free public events and invasive species challenges throughout Invasive Species Awareness Week (ISAW) June 6 to 12 across the state and online, including daily webinars at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Governor Kathy Hochul has issued a proclamation designating ISAW to support the annual campaign to encourage New Yorkers to learn more and participate in the fight against the negative impacts of invasive species, according to a DEC press release.

Invasive species are plants, animals, insects and pathogens that are not native to an area and cause harm to the environment, agriculture, economy or public health. New York is particularly vulnerable to these pests due to its role as a center for international trade and travel, according to the release.

Number one on the Columbia County Species of Concern wanted list is the spotted lanternfly, Addison Kubik told The Columbia Paper in a phone interview this week. Mr. Kubik is the Invasive Species Outreach Educator at Capital Region PRISM (Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management) which serves: Albany, Columbia, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Schenectady and portions of Fulton, Greene, Herkimer, Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties.

“Spotted lanternfly is the most worrisome,” he said.

Despite quarantine efforts, this nasty bug has already infiltrated the five boroughs of New York City and has now shown up in Kingston, Ulster County. It is a “significant economic and lifestyle pest for residents, businesses, tourism, forestry, and agriculture.” It can have a devastating effect on some important New York crops, such as grapes, hops, apples, blueberries and stone fruits.

The lanternfly’s modus operandi is to feed on sap, then excrete its abundant waste on trees and plants to the degree that it makes the fruits unmarketable, noted Mr. Kubik.

According to the PRISM Species of Concern information he provided, “the associated growth of sooty mold can impact the enjoyment of parks and even backyards. Growth of mold on fruits renders large amounts of crops unmarketable and inhibits the photosynthetic capacity of leaves.” Spotted lanternfly “presence leads to severe crop loss, exporting issues, and increased management costs.”

New York produces a grape crop worth $150 million annually, said the invasive species educator, pointing to the potential effect on wineries, craft breweries and pick-your-own fruit operations. “It has the potential to gut entire segments of the New York State economy. It keeps me up at night.”

Lanternflies lay their eggs on any hard surface: patio furniture, tree trunks, stones, metal, cars and trailer trucks, so their egg masses can easily “stowaway” on vehicles and be driven to Columbia County. “Before we know it we’ve got an infestation on our hands,” he said.

Another invasive species is Tree of Heaven, which is a preferred host of the highly destructive lanternfly. It is one of the trees invasive pest detectives monitor and where they set traps to find lanternfly adults, said Mr. Kubik.

Introduced as an ornamental in 1784, the Tree of Heaven, produces large quantities of seed and exudes chemicals from its roots that suppress the growth of surrounding plants. Its “incredible growth rate allows it to outcompete natives for space and resources,” noted the PRISM information.

Another example of an ornamental that arrived hundreds of years ago and is now out of control is the Japanese Angelica tree, which is “heavily armed” with sharp thorns and grows up to two and a half feet per year. Its intense growing root sprouts shut out small trees and form dense thickets impacting wildlife, which is prevented from moving throughout the forest. This species is not yet a problem in Columbia County, but some individuals have been found along the Hudson River in Ulster County, Mr. Kubik said.

Aggressive mile-a-minute overgrowth. Photo by Richard Gardner, Bugwood.org

Any plant named “Mile-a-minute” cannot be a good thing. This annual vine is number four on the Species of Concern list. It grows 20 feet per year (a half a foot per day) and has barbs on its stems and distinctly triangular leaves. It quickly grows overtop of native saplings—shading them out so they die and prevents understory regrowth. Its biggest economic impact is on tree farms and forestry operations, said Mr. Kubik.

While the Columbia Land Conservancy (CLC) is not offering any events specific to ISAW, Director of Land Stewardship and Community Partnerships Heidi Bock said by phone this week that CLC hosts an annual series of water chestnut removal events at its Hand Hollow Conservation Area, off County Road or Gale Hill Road in East Chatham.

Water chestnut is an aquatic invader that presents a challenge because it blocks out sunlight to native species and decreases the water’s oxygen level. Noting that the event is “super fun,” Ms. Bock said, CLC provides kayaks and everything needed so volunteers can enjoy some time floating on the lake while yanking out these troublesome plants. For more information about volunteering with CLC visit https://clctrust.org/

All this invasive talk may seem depressing, but it’s actually hopeful, said Mr. Kubik because if we didn’t know about it, we couldn’t do anything to fix it.

In a citizen science program, people can volunteer to keep their eyes out for spotted lanternfly and other invaders by reporting sightings to: https://survey123.arcgis.com/share/a08d60f6522043f5bd04229e00acdd63 or send an email with a picture and location to

For general invasive species report to: https://www.nyimapinvasives.org/

People can also reach out to Mr. Kubik and his colleagues at: https://www.capitalregionprism.org/

Anyone interested in participating in a DEC ISAW event, including the daily webinars, is encouraged to visit the webpage

(https://nyis.info › nyisaw) to find a complete list of offerings in their area.

Everyone can make a difference in the fight against invasives by helping to locate and map infestations, using only local firewood, properly cleaning watercraft before and after boating, cleaning dirt off boots after hiking, or removing invasive species from the yard. To learn more about invasive species and how to get involved, visit DEC’s website. http://www.dec.ny.gov/

To contact Diane Valden email

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