In 2014, the pretty spotted lanternfly hitchhiked its way to Pennsylvania aboard a shipment of stone leaving China and ended up an unwanted and messy guest in Berks County, just outside Philadelphia.
It has now invaded other states throughout the east coast and headed westward into Virginia and Ohio.
For the lanternfly, hitchhiking wasn’t a bad personal choice. Nothing in North America eats the lanternfly and there are no natural pathogens in North America, so it has dined and thrived on sap from 70 different species of plants, from grapevines to maple trees. In the process, it makes them wither and mold, causing more than $43 million in damage in Pennsylvania alone.
It mostly prefers Ailanthus altissima, or the Tree of Heaven, which is a hardy, fast-growing, vegetation-killing deciduous tree, itself an import from China. And, it just so happens there are Trees of Heaven in the region.
The little hopping fly secretes copious quantities of a sweet substance called honeydew, and especially on its preferred Tree of Heaven. Meanwhile, honeybees searching for food in the fall find honeydew in abundance
So Pennsylvania beekeepers are finding a strange new honey: Thicker, darker, deep reddish brown, with a smoky aroma and flavor. One keeper told Atlas Obscura that the honey smelled like Maple bacon.The resulting honey did not match honey from flowers, clover or dandelions. One honey taster said it had a figgy flavor with notes of caramel.
The honeydew honey is now being sold as Doom Bloom. Reaction from chefs and customers are have been positive.
But in Berks County, the order is still to wage war on the lanternfly, which is an evildoer — its sweet ways notwithstanding.