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This vineyard pest is threatening Niagara’s wine region

March 21, 2023

A new vineyard pest, the spotted lanternfly (SLF), is lurking within close proximity of the Niagara, Ontario border.

This past summer and fall, it was detected in upstate New York, and although it is not a great flyer, it is a good stowaway and hitchhiker. Already SLF adults have been intercepted in shipments coming into Canada.

So, it is no longer a question of “if” but “when” Ontario’s $4.4 billion wine industry and $4.2 billion fruit and vegetable crops will both be at risk.

Read Also: Climate change: Three BC vintners address the impacts

First discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014, the infestation became so severe by 2022 that quarantine zones had to be established in 14 counties. SLF prefers fruit trees and grapevines causing 45 percent – 100 percent loss of wine grape crops in Pennsylvania.

Significant damage has been reported after heavy vineyard infestation such as increased susceptibility to winter injury, reduced starch concentration in vine roots, reduced yield in the subsequent year, and even potential death of vines.

Vineyard Pest

Spotted lanternfly sits on grape vine, Berks County, Pennslvania.

An invasive species native to China, SLF feeds on over 70 plant and tree species (such as maples, black walnut, birch and willow as well as ornamentals). It depletes the plant’s sugar supply and causes ruined or mealy fruit in species such as grape and apple.

As it feeds, SLF excretes honeydew, a sugary waste that attracts bees, wasps and other insects. This waste builds up on any surface directly below SLF which also leads to the growth of sooty mold and black-coloured fungi.

Think about the mess and clean-up for winery outdoor patios!

Furthermore, customers would need to be reminded to check their vehicles and belongings before traveling so as not to inadvertently transport SLF elsewhere.

Raising Awareness

A recent Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention in Niagara Falls featured Brian Walsh (Penn State) and Diane Mooji (Canada Food Inspection Agency) presenting: Spotted Lanternfly: Experiences with an Invasive That Refuses to Abide by General Rules and Canada’s Response Strategy.

Niagara-on-the-Lake grower Anne Muir, with 30 acres of orchard fruit, says “There has been little talk among tender fruit growers and not a lot of information coming from our association and government bodies regarding SLF.” Even at the upcoming conference, Anne notes that the SLF presentation is slotted for grape growers and is not part of the program for tender fruit growers.

Spotted Lanternfly

Spotted Lanternfly lifecycle (Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Entomological Society of America 2021., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Anne is aware that SLF may not kill her peach and plum trees but could definitely weaken them. She also grows baco noir grapes for Harbour Estates Winery and is concerned as the vineyard is positioned near a stand of black walnut trees at the edge of her property which could provide a hosting/egg-laying site for the insects.

Erwin Wiens, grape grower, member of the board of directors for Grape Growers of Ontario (GGO) and Deputy Lord Mayor for the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, is well aware of the coming danger.

“We are greatly concerned, so much so that GGO has been highlighting SLF in the weekly newsletter to growers. And there is much we do not know, for example, the PMRA (Pest Management Regulatory Agency) has yet to register pesticides to combat SLF.”

Erwin adds “Once SLF is detected here, there will be no waiting time, no time to react, and no choice. We could lose everything!”

Whatever control measures are forthcoming will certainly increase growers’ expenditures and potentially harm the environment.

Spotted Lanternfly

Source: Annemarie Smith, ODNR Division of Forestry,

What to look for

Tree of Heaven (sometimes called Chinese Sumac) is the SLF’s favourite host to lay its eggs. This tree has become a common invasive tree in urban, forested, and agricultural areas. It produces an abundant amount of seeds, crowds out native species, and secretes a chemical into the soil that is toxic to neighbouring plants. It is widespread throughout Ontario and its physical removal will help to combat SLF.

Reporting in Ontario

A multi-agency task force is preparing to respond.

The public has been asked to be vigilant and to report sightings of SLF to any of the following:

Helpful Links

Plant Pest Card, Canada Food Inspection Agency:

Checklist for Residents, Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture:


Lidija’s interest in wine began over 35 years ago when she founded a wine club, The Grape Friends, in order to learn more about wine regions, grape varieties, and food & wine pairing. After retiring from teaching, Lidija enrolled in the Winery and Viticulture Technician program at Niagara College to deepen her understanding of winemaking and grape growing, graduating in 2015. Since then she has earned a French Wine Scholar certification and is currently a DipWSET candidate. Lidija blogs about wine and travel on her site


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