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FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – An invasive insect that could severely impact the wine production industry could arrive in California’s vineyards by 2027, according to a study by North Carolina State University (NCSU).

NCSU researchers conducted a study on the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), an insect that experts say was discovered in the United States in Pennsylvania in 2014, comes from China and has reached at least 11 states.

Researchers say the insect could reach California in around five years – if efforts to control the pest stop.

This is a big concern for grape growers; it could lead to billions of dollars of losses in the agricultural sector

Chris Jones, Lead author

Aside from grapes, the spotted lanternfly can affect almonds, cherries, peaches, and pine trees among other tree species. According to NCSU researchers, the insect kills the plants by feeding on them and leaving behind a residue known as “honeydew” that causes mold to grow.

The study suggests California, known for producing about 82% percent of the nation’s grapes, has been identified as a place with a “highly suitable” climate for the spotted lanternfly.

Researchers say it is difficult to predict the effects of the spotted lanternfly on the West Coast because the studies have been done in cold-producing regions, such as Pennsylvania, where they have seen vineyard losses from the cold weather and the spotted lanternflies.

Researchers in California said there is a low probability of reaching the wine counties by 2027 – but a high probability by 2033.

To read the full study click here.