Wineries, apple orchards at risk to spotted lanternfly

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VICTOR, N.Y. (WHEC) — The spotted lantern fly has good taste when it comes to wine, but state leaders and local wineries are trying to prevent these invasive bugs from destroying our local grape crops.

News10NBC talked to the owner of Song Hill Winery in Victor, about his concerns when it comes to the impact these insects can have on the business.

Besides grapes, apple orchards are also a favorite for these bugs to feed off from. This has been a potential problem for the past few years, and a major infestation is bound to happen.

“We’re always trying to be careful with all the pests out there. This one, in particular, seems to really like grapes vines, and pose a very high risk,” said owner Conor Gallagher.

Every day he checks his valuable grapes for signs of the spotted lantern fly. These pests have been destroying crops all up and down the east coast, and are now heading west.

“They suck the sap out of the vines, and they weaken them, and so you know they go dormant during the winter, they can’t recover, and I know that they’re vineyards in Pennsylvania that have had 90-percent crop loss,” said Gallagher.

He says that type of loss can put a wine company out of business.

“Like beer where you run out of beer you make a new batch. We get one shot every year. We get one chance to get one harvest in, and losing 90 percent of a harvest would be absolutely devastating,” said Gallagher.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball says spotted lantern flies are known for hitchhiking from one area to another.

“It will hitch a ride on the bumper of a car. It will hitch a ride on a Christmas tree that’s been imported from another state. Bedding plants, nursery stock, etcetera,” said Ball.

He also tells us one proactive step the state has to help keep these pests out of our state.

“We put a ban on the number of vehicles coming in without inspections. Making sure we get proper documentation, especially coming out of New Jersey, and Pennsylvania,” said Ball.

Right now it’s pure calculation on just how much loss Gallagher can sustain to stay afloat in an infestation hits his winery.

“This is a little more concerning than winter injury cause you can prune around winter injury. This seems to be destroying the whole vines, but yeah 10-percent, even a 20-percent, 30 would be manageable, but anywhere past that, and it gets pretty critical,” said Gallagher.

Spotted lantern flies were first detected in Pennsylvania back in 2014. It’s believed some imported landscaping stones to America were infested with the eggs of this insect.