Spotted lanternflies could target Long Island vineyards

As summer approaches, vineyard owners on the east end of Long Island are gearing up to protect their grape harvest from a new threat: the spotted lanternfly. Though harmless to humans, this invasive insect poses a significant risk to fruit, particularly grapes, which has raised concerns among local arborists and experts.

"Corn, apples, grapes, and once it gets out there it’ll breed prolifically," arborist Evan Dackow said. "If you’re not going to control them, you’ll have devastation in trees."

While spotted lanternflies have already established themselves in Nassau County and much of western Suffolk County, including areas up to Medford, experts believe it's just a matter of time before they spread to the eastern part of the island.

"The main concern is the annoyance factor and landscapes," entomologist Dan Gilrein said. "The insects themselves and the deposits they leave behind, and they can kill grape vines in very high numbers." 

The spotted lanternflies' potential to harm vineyards is a significant concern for local farmers, who rely on the grape harvest for their livelihoods. The insects feed on the sap from grapevines, weakening them and compromising the yield. 

Experts are hoping that natural predators and enemies of the spotted lanternfly will incorporate them into their diets, helping to curtail their population growth and slow down their spread.

While experts are closely monitoring the situation, they anticipate that spotted lanternflies may make their entrance into eastern Long Island as early as this year, given that a single female can lay anywhere from 30 to 100 eggs.