A sapsucking planthopper

… and more; eventually there will be draft horses, covered bridges, and distelfinks. But first, a bulletin from my cousin Eleanor Severin Houck about the advance of the spotted lanternfly in southeastern Pennsylvania (Eleanor is in Berks County, county seat Reading, in the Pa. Dutch country, where we both grew up).

From the annals of noxious pests, double-team division, a pairing of the disgusting and destructive insect pest Lycorma deliculata with the rampant invasive plant pest Ailanthus altissima.

From Eleanor yesterday, this bulletin, “Spotted Lanternfly quarantine expands in Pennsylvania”, from Philadelphia tv station WTXF (Fox29):

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has added 26 municipalities in Berks, Bucks, Chester, Lehigh, Montgomery and Northampton counties to the areas quarantined after confirming the presence of the Spotted Lanternfly.
Officials say the invasive species threatens a number of agricultural products and plant species. The quarantine was already in effect in other areas of the six counties.

From Wikipedia, with two views of the creature:



The spotted lanternfly or Lycorma delicatula (order Hemiptera, family Fulgoridae) is a planthopper native to China, India, and Vietnam. Although it has two pairs of wings, it jumps more than it flies. Its host plants are grapes, pines, stone fruits, and Malus spp. [apples and crabapples]. In its native habitat it is kept in check by natural predators or pathogens. It was accidentally introduced in Korea in 2006 and is since considered a pest. In September 2014, it was first spotted in the U.S.

… Trees can develop weeping wounds of sap on their trunks. Heavy infestations can cause honey dew secretions to build up at the base of the tree, blackening the soil with fungal mats around the base of the tree. The sap may attract ants, bees, hornets and wasps to feed on. The plant may be stunted or even die.

… The spotted lanternfly was first recognized in the US in Berks County, northwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On 22 September 2014, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission, confirmed its presence. It is a threat to the state’s grape, fruit tree and logging industries. The greatest risk of spread comes from people transporting materials containing egg masses laid on smooth bark, stone, and other vertical surfaces. On November 1, 2014 the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture banned transport of items that could harbor it, like firewood, lawn mowers, outdoor chairs, trucks and RVs from seven municipalities. Given the presence of old egg masses the insect is estimated to have been in the area since at least 2012, having survived the 2013/14 winter’s unusual cold.

[how to fight lanternfly infestations:] … Removing/killing 90% Ailanthus altissima trees (Chinese Sumac or Tree of Heaven) saving only male species to use as “trap” trees, since the spotted lanternfly requires a meal from this tree before laying eggs. To kill the tree of heaven, it can be cut down and the stump sprayed with 44% triclopyr-in-water solution

From this blog on 8/30/15 on the invasive, allelopathic tree of heaven:

[Wikipedia] … In a number of [areas], it has become an invasive species due to its ability both to colonise disturbed areas quickly and to suppress competition with allelopathic chemicals. It is considered a noxious weed in Australia, the United States, New Zealand and many countries of central, eastern and southern Europe. The tree also resprouts vigorously when cut, making its eradication difficult and time consuming.

It also smells foul, and it’s not especially pretty. Despite all that, there was some fashion for planting it as a city street tree, because it’s so very tough. My god, is it tough!

So much for the dire biological news from the land of my childhood. Fortunately, not all the news from Eleanor Houck is alarming. She’s also passed on this announcement of a local festival a week from today:


From the festival’s Facebook page:

This one-day event features an abundance of activities including a variety of musical entertainment, antique autos and farm equipment [blacksmithing!], live draft horse pulls, great food, and more [brief language classes!]. Join us in the 150th anniversary celebration of the Wertz’s Red Bridge! Tours will be available of the Hiester Canal Center, Gruber Wagon Works, Melcher’s Grist Mill and Wertz’s Red Bridge.

The covered bridge. That would be Wertz’s, a significant feature of my childhood, since I went through it on my bike on the way from home to the Reading airport (where I could get a tour of the region by air in a tiny plane). For me it was just the Red Bridge, over the Tully (the Tulpehocken Crick, as we knew it — where I swam with my cousins, Eleanor’s older sister and brother, and once fished with my dad). From Wikipedia:


Wertz’s Covered Bridge, also known as the Red Covered Bridge, is a historic wooden covered bridge located at Bern Township and Spring Township [the township of my childhood] in Berks County, Pennsylvania.

The bridge is a 204-foot-long (62 m), Burr Truss bridge, constructed in 1867. It crosses the Tulpehocken Creek. It serves as the walkway entrance to the Berks County Heritage Center, which also includes the Gruber Wagon Works. It is one of five covered bridges remaining in Berks County. It is the largest single-span covered bridge in Pennsylvania.

The bridge was rehabilitated in 1959 from 10 April to 3 August, however, when the Warren Street Bypass opened the bridge was closed permanently on 23 October 1959. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on 17 November 1978. From June until December 1984 the bridge was restored. The siding was replaced, several floor boards were replaced, it was jacked up, realigned, tightened, camber restored, and the rotted arch ends were replaced along with cedar roof shingles.

A close-up map of the immediate area, at a loop in the Tulpehocken:


A larger map of the area northwest of Reading; you can easily pick put the area above in the center left.


My first childhood house was roughly at the N of the legend West Lawn in the lower left corner. My second was northeast of there, across Grandview Blvd., almost to State Hill Rd. From there the trip to the airport was across fields (now all built up) and then through lots of woods. A grand adventure for a 10 to 14-year-old. (There were other bicycle adventures: to the south, as far as Shillington; to the west, as far as Wernersville; and once, about 30 miles northeast to Allentown.)

The Berks Distelfink. You will see on the map in #5 the legend Der Distelfink Statue. This is an 11-foot folk-artsy statue of a distelfink (lit. ‘thistle-finch’, known in English as the goldfinch):


From Wikipedia, as quoted in my 5/3/16 posting on thistles and related matters:

A distelfink is a stylized goldfinch, probably based on the European variety. It frequently appears in Pennsylvania Dutch folk art. It represents happiness and good fortune and the Pennsylvania German people, and is a common theme in hex signs and in fraktur. The word distelfink (literally ‘thistle-finch’) is the German name for the European goldfinch.

If Pennsylvania’s Deitschland had an official flag, no doubt it would have a distelfink in its canton (the northwest corner); or it would be a variant of the Pennsylvania state flag, with distelfinks instead of black horses, plus other adjustments as needed. From Wikipedia:


The coat of arms of Pennsylvania is an official emblem of the state, alongside the seal and state flag, and was adopted in 1778. The flag of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania consists of a blue field on which the state coat of arms is embroidered. The Pennsylvania coat of arms features a shield crested by an American bald eagle, flanked by horses, and adorned with symbols of Pennsylvania’s strengths — a ship carrying state commerce to all parts of the world; a clay-red plough, a symbol of Pennsylvania’s rich natural resources; and three golden sheaves of wheat, representing fertile fields and Pennsylvania’s wealth of human thought and action. An olive branch and cornstalk cross limbs beneath—symbols of peace and prosperity. The state motto, “Virtue, Liberty and Independence”, appears festooned below. Atop the coat of arms is a bald eagle, representing Pennsylvania’s loyalty to the United States.

But, although there’s now a Pa. Dutch Wikipedia (pdc.wikipedia.org), there is no longer a true ethnic community, united by cultural practices of all kinds, a community that might want a political flag. The community was once strongly united by language, but now the language survives only in rural pockets (such as among the Old Order Amish). And the community was never united by religion, beyond being generally Protestant; the Pennsylvania Dutch were drawn from a wide variety of Protestant churches and sects. What we have now, in events like the Berks Heritage Festival, is a celebration of ethnic heritage, for those of us with a sentimental attachment to our heritage and for cultural tourists.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that; I enjoy Oktoberfest, Cinco de Mayo, Chinese New Year, the Feast of San Gennaro, and so on, even though these are not the celebrations of my people and have drifted away from a firm grounding in their ethnic communities. If I were back in Berks County, I’d want to experience the Heritage Festival, if only as a sentimental journey to lost times, places, and ways of living. But, really, I’d be a cultural tourist just like everybody else.

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