Thoughts from our president

Another Invasive Has Been Found in West Virginia

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) have now confirmed the presence of a new, invasive insect, the Spotted Lanternfly, in West Virginia. In the January 2019 issue of the Highlands Voice I mentioned the probability of the Spotted Lanternfly reaching West Virginia and now unfortunately it has been confirmed.

According to a release from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, a small population of Spotted Lanternfly was detected in the Bunker Hill area of Berkeley County on October 30. The release stated the United States Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) confirmed the findings.

The release stated that treatments will be conducted for the Spotted Lanternfly in the spring of 2020 in cooperation with USDA-APHIS, if needed. In the release, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture stated they are encouraging landowners to inspect their property for eggs masses, especially on properties that contain numerous Tree-of-Heaven.

Since the first Spotted Lanternfly was identified in Berks County, Pennsylvania in 2014, populations have been established in Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Virginia. With strict quarantines in place, the spread of the bug has been relatively slow. 

Now that the Spotted Lanternfly has reached West Virginia, trees on our public and private could be among the biggest losers.

Why the alarm? Simple The lanternfly can devastate crops such as grapes, peaches, plums, cherries and hops along with our hardwood forests that are now at particular risk because the Spotted Lanternfly has arrived. Most of the state’s deciduous forests are made up of hardwoods, which are popular for making furniture and cabinets as well as other uses.

Because the pest is an intensive and indiscriminate feeder with at least 70 known hosts, it is believed that it will pose a real threat to the health of our trees, profitability of the state’s timber industry, profitability for landowners and severance tax revenue for the state.

There’s a significant danger to commerce because the insect is such a good hitchhiker. It hops onto anything. Complicating the situation is that while the timber is harvested in West Virginia, it is then shipped within and without the state. This in-and-out movement of timber could be diminished since the Spotted Lanternfly has arrived and a quarantine is likely to be put in place.

Controlling the pest will not be easy, either. The Spotted Lanternfly is also a leafhopper species, which have thwarted forest managers in the past, and because of its feeding style — which includes piercing the plant to extract nutrients — it is likely to pass diseases freely, like a “dirty needle,” between the many trees it feeds on.

Because the Spotted Lanternfly has gotten a foothold, the WVDA must educate business owners as well as landowners on how to identify it and its egg masses. Formal classes must be developed emphasizing the importance of stopping the Spotted Lanternfly, as well as its life cycle and habits, how to find and destroy the creatures, and best practices.

What has been learned so far is the bug is highly attracted to Red Maples — a popular tree in urban landscapes — and the non-native Ailanthus, also known as Tree-of-Heaven. Tree-of-Heaven originates from China, where the Spotted Lanternfly is also native. The tree was introduced to the U.S. as an ornamental plant in the 1780s and is ubiquitous on many properties, which wasn’t a problem until now.

I spoke with a representative of the USDA and they are inspecting properties in the confirmed area for additional Spotted Lanternfly egg masses. The eggs are laid in gray sheets and look like dried mud. The eggs can be laid on any surface, including patio furniture, trailers and wood piles — which makes unintentional transport of the species to new areas even more likely. 

We must be vigilant. The more people looking for the Spotted Lanternfly and scouting for it, hopefully the Spotted Lanternfly could be less impactful in West Virginia.

It Is Extremely Important to Report Your Findings

If you find an insect that you suspect is the Spotted Lanternfly, please contact your local Extension office or State Plant Regulatory Official to have the specimen identified properly. To locate an Extension specialist near you, go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Web site at www.nifa.usda. gov/Extension. A directory of State Plant Regulatory Officials is available on the National Plant Board Web site at

For more information or to report infestations, please contact: West Virginia Department of Agriculture Plant Industries Division (304)558-2212 or send information to

For more information or to report infestations, please contact: West Virginia Department of Agriculture Plant Industries Division (304)558-2212 or send information to

Public Lands Advocates Visit Senate Offices

November 20, a group representing the West Virginians for Public Lands, Rhea Mitchell, WV Rivers’ public lands coordinator; myself representing West Virginia Highlands Conservancy; Angie Rosser, WV Rivers Coalition executive director and Barry Rainwater, Adventures on the Gorge. visited with members of the staffs of Senators Manchin and Capito. Our mission was to deliver hundreds of postcards and a letter supporting the Land and Water Conservation Fund signed by 1,457 individual members, 77 businesses, and 41 organizations, requesting their continued support for the fund by supporting and voting for permanent funding. That same day Land & Water Conservation Fund identical funding bills passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Congressional Natural Resources Committee. We remain optimistic that permanent funding will pass for this very important Fund that has benefitted 54 of the 55 counties in West Virginia.

Forest Service Projects We Are Watching

The Conservancy has received a November 21 response, from the Forest Service, to our comments for the Draft Decision Notice for the Panther Ridge Habitat Enhancement Project Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). Members of the Public Lands Committee are now reviewing the response.

November 25, the Forest Service notified the Conservancy of the next project area on the Cheat-Potomac District that will be undergoing interdisciplinary analysis through the NEPA process – Grassy Ridge. The Forest Service held a field-based stakeholder meeting last summer to introduce the project area and garner some input from partners.  Since that meeting, the Grassy project was placed on hold while the Greenbrier District proceeded with another project, Greenbrier Southeast.  Now that that project is far enough along in the process, they are initiating the NEPA process on Grassy Ridge. Again members of the Public Lands Committee are reviewing the documents submitted with the notification.

West Virginia Highlands Conservancy continues to work with partners and supporters to protect the incredibly important highlands of West Virginia. It is increasingly difficult to keep up as lots of good and potentially concerning information surfaces every day.