Penn State Berks center supports spotted lanternfly research

Spotted Lantern Fly
Credit: Photo Courtesy of Reading Eagle

READING, Pa. — The Center for the Agricultural Sciences and a Sustainable Environment (CASSE) at Penn State Berks is the “killing fields” for spotted lanternflies. At least that’s the goal of researchers from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, who have been working with researchers from Penn State Berks and Penn State Cooperative Extension to study the biology of the spotted lanternfly and the effectiveness of various insecticides on the pests that have invaded and wreaked havoc on Berks County since 2014.

It all began in 2018 when College of Agricultural Sciences researchers approached Michael Fidanza, professor of plant and soil science at Penn State Berks and director of the CASSE. The researchers needed a site to conduct a preliminary investigation on the biology and life cycle of the spotted lanternfly, as well as various control measures. The CASSE proved to be the perfect location for this collaborative research study.

Under the leadership of David Biddinger, tree fruit research entomologist and research professor, and Julie Urban, associate research professor, both from the Penn State Department of Entomology, a task force brought potted peach trees and grape vines to CASSE. Then they visited sites in Berks County that were infested with spotted lanternflies, like the trees around the Pagoda, and simply scooped the nymphs into a mesh laundry bag, which was then double-bagged and driven to campus for the study.

Now, plans are underway for the research to continue; a three-year project is proposed to begin this spring 2019 on a three-acre plot at CASSE. For the study, more potted grapevines and spotted lanternflies will be brought to campus, and testing of insecticides will continue.

In addition to faculty working on the projects, students enrolled in a Penn State Lehigh Valley biology course taught by Karen Kackley are also involved in the research. Fidanza also said that last summer a Penn State graduate student studying entomology drove to Berks from University Park on a regular basis to check on the plants in the study.

About the Center for the Agricultural Sciences and a Sustainable Environment

The Penn State Berks Center for the Agricultural Sciences and a Sustainable Environment was officially designated a center in 2016 for the purposes of conducting agriculture, horticulture, plant and soil ecology, rhizosphere microbiome, and turfgrass science research, as well as to support teaching and outreach efforts on campus. The center also participates in campus sustainability initiatives through the composting program.