ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Upstate New York wineries and crops are at risk from the Spotted Lanternfly (SLF), which has now reached an infestation level, US Senator Chuck Schumer said on Sunday. If the bug is not contained, it could cost the state millions of dollars.

Schumer urged the United States Department of Agriculture to tap federal money from an account he has supported with over $200 million to curb the insect. The senator said these funds can be used by New York’s “Integrated Pest Management Program,” and that there is still time to contain the Spotted Lanternfly’s serious threat to New York. He also said federal funding can be used for education and elimination as he made the case for delivering an additional $22 million in the upcoming fed budget to deal with meddlesome like the SLF.

“For years now, I have warned about the pest, but now we are demanding action because pockets of Upstate New York are now infested by the bug that wreaks havoc on trees, vineyards and crops,” Schumer said. “This is a multi-million dollar threat to New York’s economy–both tourism and agriculture are now at risk if the spotted lanternfly goes unchecked. But the good news here is that we have federal funds already in place, that I secured, to help New York contain the bug and that we will be pushing for more.”

There is a two-level plan to deal with the SLF, Schumer said. First, there is a call for the USDA to use the over $200 million for the Specialty Crops Pests docket he secured in the recent appropriations bill, including $1 million allocated for the oversight of Spotted Lanternflies.

Second, Schumer said he is launching a major offensive to increase federal support for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service program by over $22 million to enhance their work with states to prevent and ease invasive species like the Spotted Lanternfly. Schumer lauded the work being done currently by USDA and NYS to monitor for sightings of the SLF and to teach locals the best ways to spot this invasive species.

Throughout the past year, New York has seen the start of infestations of Spotted Lanternflies in nearly all corners of the state. Decay and sightings have been found across the state in the Finger Lakes, Central Park, Hudson Valley, Ithaca, Capital Region, Central New York and the Southern Tier. In 2019, after a series of serious infestations in nearby Pennsylvania, researchers at the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences alerted that the spotted lanternfly had the potential to cost Pennsylvania’s economy $325 million a year and 2,800 jobs.

Further, Schumer said the SLF poses a risk to New York’s agricultural health, too; they feed on the sap of more than 70 plant species, which makes plants vulnerable to illness and attacks from other insects. As mob feeders, SLF’s are known to quickly overwhelm vineyards and orchards, killing grape vines and other fruit bearers or making them unusable due to the excessive amounts of “honeydew” they release when feeding, which can lead to mold.

New York’s wine and grape industry develops a direct economic impact of $6.65 billion annually, creates over 71,000 jobs and attracts nearly five million tourist visits per year. Comparably, New York’s apple industry contributes $1.3 billion in total economic output, provides more than 8,000 jobs and produces nearly $4 million in gross domestic product.

To help control the SLF problem, the state is doing the following:

  • Conducting trapping surveys, collecting data and monitoring SLF populations
  • Restricting movement of goods brought into NY from quarantined areas in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia by assuring certain items (such as construction and landscaping materials) have a certificate of inspection issued
  •  Conducting outreach to the public, trade groups and other stakeholders for updated information
  •  Educating the public on how to spot the SLF, report sightings to the state and kill the bug

If you have spotted any of the lanternflies, NYS recommends taking pictures and sending information over to spottedlanternfly@agriculture.ny.gov.