Spotted lanternfly wiping out vineyards in Southeastern Pa.

Paul Kurtz
June 24, 2019 - 4:00 am
Dominic Dollose had big plans for a four-acre vineyard on his farm near Perkiomonville.

Paul Kurtz/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The spotted lanternfly has cut a path of destruction through 14 Pennsylvania counties since it was first discovered in Berks County five years ago. The pest is now posing a deadly threat to vineyards. 

Dominic Dollose had big plans for a four-acre vineyard on his farm near Perkiomonville.

"Two years ago, I planted about 1,200 vines," he explained. 

But today, his grape vines are a wasteland of weeds and rotted branches, destroyed last summer by the sap sucking spotted lanternfly.  

"Oh, you couldn't believe the swarm of them. We were walking up and down these rows, and these plants were having 40-50 of them. They were just lined up, it was unbelievable, like an army of them," he said. 

His neighbor lost nearly half of his 100 plus-acre crop and is trying to fight them off again this summer. 

But Dollose believes he's fighting a losing battle. 

Related: People and businesses get used to life in spotted lanternfly quarantine zones

"There's nothing you can do. You can't spray 'em. I don't know of any spray or anything that kills them right now."

State agriculture secretary Russell Redding says the lanternfly has a voracious appetite with a preference for sweet things like hops, sugar maple trees and, of course, grapes. 

"We have vineyards in Pennsylvania that, after two years after being exposed to spotted lanternfly, are dead. They're done. Kills the plant, you're out of that business," Redding said. 

Dollose says he won't replant until the state finds a way to take out the lanternfly.   

There may be hope. 

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University and Cornell University are looking into two types of fungi that may have caused a sizeable lanternfly die-off in Berks County.