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Predilections of a destructive pest

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Predilections of a destructive pest
At four areas around The Woodlands, Rohr will be checking weekly to see how many lanternflies he finds. The insect prefers ailanthus trees, but also feeds on dozens of other species. Photo by Eric Sucar
By Katherine Unger Baillie
May 24, 2019

Benjamin Rohr (Master of Environmental Studies ‘20—expected) is embarking on his capstone project to culminate his degree. The premise of his experiment is straightforward: to determine the types of trees the lanternfly prefers beyond its known affinity for ailanthus. The bugs, which don’t fly but can hop 20 meters or more in a go, were first seen in 2014 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, and quickly extended their range. They’re known to feed on 70 species of tree and vine, 30 of which occur in Pennsylvania. A bark-boring species, they create gaping holes that leave the tree vulnerable to secondary infections.

For Rohr, who just finished his first year in the Master of Environmental Studies program, the lanternfly wasn’t on his radar until the spring semester, when he took a course in urban forestry taught by Sally Willig and Lara Roman. Willig invited him to attend a meeting headed by Penn’s Facilities and Real Estate Services department focused on urban forest management. The Woodlands’ Facilities and Landscape Manager Robin Rick was also attending, and mentioned that she was working with the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to manage what appeared to be an emerging infestation in parts of the property.

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