The Department of Agriculture recently issued an alert warning Pennsylvanians of an invasive pest known for wreaking havoc on area vineyards. While the Spotted Lanternfly may be beautiful with its fiery hues of red, yellow and orange, it is considered very dangerous for local agriculture.
What is a Spotted Lanternfly?
The Spotted Lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula (White), an invasive planthopper, has been discovered in Berks and surrounding counties in Pennsylvania. It is native to China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and introduced to Japan and Korea where it has become a major pest of grapes. This insect has the potential to greatly impact the grape, hops and logging industries. Early detection is vital for the protection of Pennsylvania businesses and agriculture.
What does it look like?
The Spotted Lanternfly adult is approximately 1" long and 1/2" wide at rest. The forewing is grey with black spots and the wings tips are reticulated black blocks outlined in grey. The hind wings have contrasting patches of red and black with a white band. The legs and head are black; the abdomen is yellow with broad black bands. Immature stages are black with white spots and develop red patches as they grow.
The spotted lanternfly feeds on many types of plants but strongly prefers Tree of Heaven. Attacked trees will develop weeping wounds. These wounds will leave a greyish or black trail along the trunk. This sap will attract other insects to feed, notably wasps and ants. In late fall, adults will lay egg masses on host trees and nearby smooth surfaces like stone, outdoor furniture, vehicles, and structures. Newly laid egg masses have a grey mud-like covering which can take on a dry cracked appearance over time. Old egg masses appear as rows of 30-50 brownish seed-like deposits in 4-7 columns on the trunk, roughly an inch long.
What areas are affected?
According to the PennState Extension website, the following counties are quarantined, and residents in these areas should take caution to "look before you leave" to avoid spreading this invasive insect pest: Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, and Schuylkill. If you live outside of the current quarantine area in Pennsylvania and find a spotted lanternfly, report it!
Along with expanding the quarantine zones, seasonal changes, and the insect’s life-cycle, the department of agriculture has shifted its control strategies, enlisting additional support from local, state, and federal agencies and universities. During the summer months, control efforts focused on eliminating insects and Ailanthus trees, or the Tree of Heaven, where the Spotted Lanternflies prefer to breed and feed. Work crews continue to concentrate on areas that pose the greatest risk for transporting insects, such as railway beds, interstates, and other transportation corridors where the Ailanthus tree grows.
What sort of damage does it cause?
- Like most hemipterans, SLF feeds on plants using their sucking and piercing mouthparts to extract plant sap.
- Adults and nymphs feed on phloem tissues of young stems with their piercing and sucking mouthparts and excrete large quantities of liquid (honeydew).
- Feeding creates weeping wounds
- Honeydew facilitates the growth of sooty mold
- Weeping Sap attracts activity from hymenopteran such as wasps, hornets, ants, bees etc.
- May be toxic to domestic animals because of Cantharidin and toxic metabolites from Tree of Heaven.
- Impacts quality of outdoor life for everyone
What should I do if I see a Spotted Lanternfly?
If you see egg masses, scrape them off, double bag them and throw them away. You can also place the eggs into alcohol or hand sanitizer to kill them. Please report sightings of egg masses, nymphs, or adult spotted lanternfly using this tool provided by Penn State Extension
Collect a specimen: Specimens of any life stage can be turned in to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Entomology lab for verification.
Take a picture: A photograph of any life stage (including egg masses) can be submitted to Badbug@pa.gov.
Report a sighting: If you can't take a specimen or photograph: report your sighting using this online tool or call the Automated Invasive Species Report Line at 1-888-4BAD-FLY and leave a message detailing your sighting and contact information.
Will certain pesticides be effective at eliminating the Spotted Lanternfly?
There is limited information on pesticide options for control of Spotted Lanternfly because is it a new pest to this area. This year, Penn State Extension is conducting efficacy trials on products that are available to the homeowner for control on their property. "Early this month, we (PennState Extension) began testing contact insecticides including horticultural oil, neem oil, insecticidal soap, and products that contained spinosad, carbaryl, bifenthrin, or pyrethrin as the active ingredient. Additionally, we included two systemic insecticides (both applied as soil drenches and one as a bark spray) in our preliminary trials."