ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Upstate New York wineries and crops are at risk from the spotted lanternfly, which has now reached an infestation level, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer said on Sunday. If the bug is not contained, it could cost the state millions of dollars.

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“Summer is the perfect time to relax outdoors with a nice New York Riesling, but the rapid spread of the invasive spotted lanternfly threatens to suck the life out of our vineyards, agriculture and great outdoor tourism industry,” said Schumer. “We need to stomp out this bug before it spreads, otherwise our farmers and local businesses could face millions in damage and an unmanageable swarm.”

Schumer urged the United States Department of Agriculture to tap federal money from an account he has supported with over $200 million to curb the insect.

“For years now, I have warned about the pest, but now we are demanding action because pockets of Upstate New York are now infested by the bug that wreaks havoc on trees, vineyards and crops,” Schumer said. “This is a multi-million dollar threat to New York’s economy – both tourism and agriculture are now at risk if the spotted lanternfly goes unchecked. But the good news here is that we have federal funds already in place, that I secured, to help New York contain the bug and that we will be pushing for more.”

Other states have also been warning of the threat posed by the spotted lanternfly, and wildlife officials are asking people to kill the bugs if they spot them.

Schumer lauded the work being done currently by USDA and the state to monitor for sightings of the bug and to teach locals the best ways to spot this invasive species.

Throughout the past year, New York has seen the decay and the start of infestations of spotted lanternflies in nearly all corners of the state. In 2019, after a series of serious infestations in nearby Pennsylvania, researchers at the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences alerted that the spotted lanternfly had the potential to cost Pennsylvania’s economy $325 million a year and 2,800 jobs.

Schumer said the spotted lanternfly poses a risk to New York’s agricultural health, too; they feed on the sap of more than 70 plant species, which makes plants vulnerable to illness and attacks from other insects. As mob feeders, they are known to quickly overwhelm vineyards and orchards, killing grape vines and other fruit bearers or making them unusable due to the excessive amounts of “honeydew” they release when feeding, which can lead to mold.

New York’s wine and the grape industry develops a direct economic impact of $6.65 billion annually, creates over 71,000 jobs, and attracts nearly five million tourist visits per year. Comparably, New York’s apple industry contributes $1.3 billion in total economic output, provides more than 8,000 jobs, and produces nearly $4 million in gross domestic product.

If you have spotted any of the lanternflies, NYS recommends taking pictures and sending information over to spottedlanternfly@agriculture.ny.gov.