Researchers Exploring BIocontrols for Lantern Fly
A new pest — the spotted lantern fly — is the subject of new biocontrol research by Dr. Mark Hoddle, director of the Center for Invasive Species Research at the University of California Riverside. The spotted lantern fly, originally from China, has rapidly made its way along the East Coast of the United States. Its population has reached such high numbers that it is now considered a concern for the East Coast grape industry because its waste product damages a plant’s ability to grow. The fly, which can only fly a few hundred feet, has spread quickly because the females lay eggs on vehicles, and other nonbiological materials, that unwittingly transfer the eggs to new territories.
While the spotted lantern fly has not yet made its way to California, Dr. Hoddle is being proactive and conducting tests to determine whether a parasitic wasp, from China, could serve as a biocontrol against the fly. The wasp lays its own eggs inside a lantern fly’s eggs and the wasp larvae then devour their host eggs. Dr. Hoddle is using native California lantern flies in a secure quarantine facility at the UC Riverside for testing. He will conduct tests to be certain that the wasp, if released into the wild as a biocontrol, will not harm the “wrong targets.”
In light of the threat the spotted lantern fly could pose to California avocados, the California Avocado Commission has contributed some industry matching funds to the project.