WAYNE COUNTY—As residents begin to decorate their homes for the upcoming Christmas holiday, the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association released a statement noting that “the hype of the Spotted Lanternfly shouldn't put a damper on the real tree being part of Christmas celebrations.”

The association notes its growers in the 13-county quarantine zone are working closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) to inspect trees shipped out for purchase elsewhere.

According to information from the Penn State Extension (PSE) and the Master Gardeners, it is unlikely Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) will be carried into a home on a Christmas tree.

Similarly, the Christmas Tree Growers association quotes Berks County grower Gregg Eshelman of Plow Farms who stated, “We haven’t found Spotted Lanternfly egg masses on any of our trees. Based on our experience and that of other local growers, we also believe that conifers are not a preferred host.”

On the off chance SLF eggs have been laid on an incoming conifer, they are easily removed by scraping them off with a stiff card.

As earlier reported, SLF eggs are laid in groups of 30-55, ordered several tight rows a few inches in length.

PSE advises anyone who finds an egg mass on any tree or other surface to scrape it off and soak it in alcohol contained in a double ziplock bag.

Egg masses can also be smashed to destroy incubating larvae.

SLF has not yet been spotted in Wayne County but according to Kelley Stewart, the Wayne Conservation District Forest Specialist, the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), a vital part of the SLF reproductive cycle, has recently been spotted in Honesdale.

As earlier reported, Tree of Heaven is the only tree identified so far which allows the SLF to reach full reproductive maturity.

The tree's presence in the county could allow unchecked larvae to spread and feast on one of the 70 species of plant it enjoys.

In a report given in October this year, PSE Montgomery County Horticulture Specialist Emelie Swackhamer noted that, within the quarantine zone, SLF has been detrimental to orchards, vineyards, hops farms, the forestry industry, and other agricultural businesses.

Should specimens be found in the county, residents are asked to call the SLF hotline 1-888-4BAD-FLY (1-888-422-3359).

More information about SLF is available from the PSE website: www.extension.psu.edu.

Christmas tree care

The Master Gardeners recommend when selecting a Christmas tree, “look for flexible needles that remain firmly attached when you tug on them.

“Knock the base of the tree on the ground and check for excessive needle drop- be aware that older needles on the interior of the tree are naturally prone to shed as the tree ages.

“Tree color should be rich and deep. If the needles pull out easily or if they appear dull looking pass on the tree.”

The Master Gardeners recommend choosing a tree stand with a large reservoir for water as freshly snipped trees will absorb water quickly.

Water levels should remain above the cut line for best results, state the Master Gardeners tips.

“Excessive heat and dry air are environmental factors which can hasten the demise of a Christmas tree,” state the Master Gardeners. “Close heat registers near your tree, avoid placement near south and west facing windows or a well-used fireplace. Turn your thermostat down at night if possible.”

When the season has ended and trees are being discarded, Stewart recommends incinerating them to prevent any unseen ecological hitch-hikers, such as insect larvae or fungal spores, from spreading and inhabiting the surrounding environment.

More tree tips and tricks are available from the Master Gardeners' page on the PSE website: www.extension.psu.edu/.