Warning about invasive insect isn’t bugging buyers of Christmas trees

A Christmas tree stand outside Augustus-St. Gaudens Playground (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Despite a warning from Senator Charles Schumer that an invasive insect might be infiltrating Christmas trees in the New York area, people shopping for trees this week didn’t seem too worried about the bugs dampening their holiday spirit.

Schumer warned that the bug, called the spotted lanternfly, could be a threat to natural resources in open spaces like Central Park and leafy neighborhoods. The insect, could be hitching a ride from trees brought in from out of state and the senator expressed concern about the effect the destructive bug could have on trees in local parks and threatening New York’s agricultural health.

George Smith, who has been running the Parks-operated trees stand outside the Augustus-St. Gaudens playground on Second Avenue between East 19th and 20th Streets for the last 12 years, said that he heard about bugs from an article in the Daily News earlier in the week but customers haven’t asked him about it.

“The tree bugs don’t really affect people so nobody’s really said anything or noticed,” Smith said.

According to Schumer’s office, the spotted lanternfly is an invasive species native to China and Southeast Asia but has been found in Pennsylvania, as well as in New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia and New York, and the senator is pushing for federal funds similar to those received in Pennsylvania to combat the bug.

Spotted lanternfly (Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture)

Smith said that he hasn’t spotted any of the bugs or egg masses on the trees that he’s unloaded for the stand on Second Avenue, but he did note that they sourced trees from Pennsylvania this year instead of from North Carolina due to recent shortages. “The quality in North Carolina is better but they sold out this year,” he said. “This has been one of the worst years because we had to pay more and it’s harder to get them, so sales are a little down because the trees are more expensive.”

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