An invasive insect making its way across the country could potentially threaten California’s wine industry, new research shows.
The spotted lanternfly, an insect native to Asia known to kill grapevines and damage crops, may make its way to California’s grape-producing counties in five years, according to a new analysis from North Carolina State University researchers.
“This is a big concern for grape growers; it could lead to billions of dollars of losses in the agricultural sector,” Chris Jones, the study’s lead author, said in a June 8 news release.
California produces 82% of the country’s grapes, researchers said.
Jones said it is hard to predict the exact damage that may come from the bug to grape-producing areas. If no preventative measures are taken, though, the insect could be common throughout the country by 2037, researchers say.
The spotted lanternfly was first seen in the country in Pennsylvania in 2014, researchers say. It is now in at least 11 different states.
In the study published in Communications Biology, a computer simulation tool was used to “predict the timing of the spread of the spotted lanternfly,” the news release said.
The bug “can damage or destroy commercially valuable crops,” including grapes, apples and peaches, researchers say. The bug kills the plants by feeding on them, and it can also leave behind a “honeydew” residue, which can further damage the plants as it encourages mold growth.
California, along with Washington state, have “highly suitable” climates for the bug, researchers say.
While there is a “low probability” the insect will reach California’s grape-producing counties by 2027, there is a “high probability” by 2033, researchers say. It will “likely spread through the grape-producing region by 2034.”
Jones hopes the study urges others to create strategies to manage the insects.
“We hope this helps pest managers prepare,” Jones said in the release. “If they can start early surveillance, or start treating as soon as the spotted lanternfly arrives, it could slow the spread to other areas.”