NC Commissioner Troxler: Two Black Labs Join Fight Against Lanternfly

The super-sniffing skills of two black labs will join the surveillance efforts to find the destructive spotted lanternfly in North Carolina. The pair are finishing up their training now.

  • I don’t often single out new “employees” when they join the department, but the ones I want to talk about today are pretty special and a bit different than the rest of our new hires.

  • I am talking about Kita and Neeko or Goose, two black labs that are being specially trained under a USDA program to sniff out the spotted lanternfly.

  • I met them recently and I can tell they are eager to get to work. And we are eager to get them in the field, too.

  • The spotted lanternfly is an invasive species that can cause significant destruction to trees and vineyards. They make a mess with their sticky droppings and can decrease agricultural yields.

  • It is not thought to be currently established in North Carolina, but the pest was recently found in Virginia, just 15 miles from the North Carolina border so we are on heightened alert for the spotted lanternfly here.

  • The dogs are going to be very helpful as they can smell what their handlers might not be able see when it comes to egg masses. If they smell the spotted lanternfly or egg masses, they are trained to sit and alert their handler.

  • The spotted lanternfly is especially tricky because they can lay their eggs just about anywhere, including flat surfaces and in odd places like patio furniture and under cars.

  • The dogs can be used to sniff around cars coming out of areas with known populations of spotted lanternfly to help prevent the pest’s  accidental travel into the state.

  • The dogs’ regular work days will be spent with their handlers surveying businesses, nurseries or high-risk areas.

  • They can also be used when responding to reports of spotted lanternfly in a particular area. If a site is confirmed, we would extensively search the area with the dogs to be sure this pest doesn’t have friends with it.
  • While it is easy to look at these dogs and think what cute puppies they are, it is important to remember they have very specialized jobs to do that required quite a bit of training.

  • The dogs and handlers undergo an intensive eight-week training program where they learn to work together, and the dogs learn to recognize the scent of the spotted lanternfly and the handler learns to direct and respond to them.

  • I’m excited to welcome Kita and “Goose” to the NCDA&CS team.