Invasive spotted lanternfly found in Oakland County, first sighting in Michigan

Spotted lanternfies are a known threat to grapevines and vineyards
Posted at 10:41 PM, Aug 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-11 23:49:29-04

PONTIAC, Mich. (WXYZ) — An invasive pest called the spotted lanternfly is now in Michigan.

The Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced the first confirmed sighting of the bug announced Thursday.

The departments say a small population of spotted lanternflies has been found in Pontiac. Michigan is now the 13th state where the bug has been found after it first reached the U.S. just eight years ago. They're known to be a particular threat to grapevines.

More than 14,000 acres in Michigan are dedicated to growing grapes, including at Youngblood Vineyard in Macomb County.

“So we can look at some of these clusters here and I don't see any damage, any bird damage out here on these,” said owner Jessica Youngblood as she showed 7 Action News her vineyard.

When your business is wine making, healthy grapes are key. With 25 acres of grapes, protecting them is a lot of work. Youngblood and her family started Youngblood Vineyard in Ray Township seven years ago, and it's become her passion.

“Absolutely," she said. "I'm out here everyday, seven days a week.”

Youngblood has already covered much of her crop with netting to protect from birds. But now, the spotted lanternfly poses a new threat.

“There's a lot of unknowns and we’re all concerned," Youngblood said. "With anything new like this, we’re all concerned.”

First seen in the U.S. eight years ago, the bug has been found in New York City, Philadelphia and now metro Detroit to name a few.

“This is really quite unfortunate news,” said Jennifer Holton with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. "It’s not unexpected.”

Holton says they confirmed the discovery of egg masses Thursday in Pontiac. They’re now investigating to determine their response.

"What we're trying to find right now is the extent of the infestation in the Pontiac area. Has it spread? If it has, how far? Where?" Holton said.

The bug produces a sticky liquid called honeydew, which becomes a mold that kills a variety of plants. In particular, it's a threat to grapevines.

“I think one of the scary things with an invasive pest like this that is new for us is we don't really know what the effects are going to be," Youngblood said. "We don't know how serious it's going to be, we don't quite how we’re going to control it.”

The bug has yet to be found in a Michigan vineyard, but Jessica says it’s only a matter of time before the bugs or their eggs start showing up.

“We're definitely going to be looking for signs of those eggs in the vineyard all fall,” Youngblood said. "It's not surprising we are seeing this. I think we all thought it was a matter of time that it was coming.”

The Department of Agriculture and the DNR are asking people to keep an eye out for the bugs and their eggs. If you see any, take a picture and submit it to the state's webpage.