RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — An invasive species referred to as the Spotted Lanternfly is making its way across Virginia. The species can cause extreme damage to trees, crops and vines – but not people, physically. Local wineries and vineyards are expected to be hit the hardest if these insects come to Central Virginia.

Anthony Stone, vineyard manager for James River Cellars says his team is very aware of the invasive species and fears its arrival.

“That would pretty much wipe our entire vineyard out,” Stone said.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has had its eye on the insect ever since its introduction to the Commonwealth back in 2018.

James River Cellars Vineyard (Photo Courtesy of Sierra Krug, 8News)

David Gianino, with VDACS, says the bugs are attracted to the Tree of Heaven, an aggressive invasive species found throughout Virginia. Stone notes his vineyard is surrounded by this type of tree, which could put the winery directly in harm’s way.

This particular species of bug reproduces rapidly, making maintenance key. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is giving the public tips on what they can do to help minimize the growth of the Spotted Lanternfly population.

“Stomping it, smashing it, or scraping it,” Gianino said — describing popular ways people can kill the bugs.

Another key method of managing this invasive species is minimizing their travel abilities. These hitchhikers typically have little difficulty attaching to moving objects and journeying with whomever they find.

“It can get onto products hop onto your car and move around as you’re driving around the state,” Gianino said. 

VDACS said that quarantine is one of the primary ways to manage the issue — announcing an impending expansion to already outlined quarantine zones. The new quarantine outline will be announced formally in July but is slated to include Albemarle County, Shenandoah County, Prince William County and more than a dozen more.

Gianino said that businesses in the quarantined areas would be required to get a permit from VDACS and inspect all regulated articles leaving the quarantined zones to ensure they are free of the pest.

According to the VDACS, regulated articles are items considered to be a risk contributing to the movement of the bugs to un-infested areas. These include:

  • Live or dead trees; nursery stock; green lumber; firewood; logs; perennial plants; garden plants or produce; stumps; branches; mulch; or composted or un-composted chips, bark, or yard waste
  • Outdoor industrial or construction materials or equipment; concrete barriers or structures; stone, quarry material, ornamental stone, or concrete; or construction, landscaping, or remodeling waste
  • Shipping containers, such as wood crates or boxes
  • Outdoor household articles, including recreational vehicles; lawn tractors or mowers; grills; grill or furniture covers; tarps; mobile homes; tile; stone; deck boards
  • Any equipment, trucks, or vehicles not stored indoors; any means of conveyance utilized for movement of an article; any vehicle, trailer or wagon