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Spotted Lanternfly

Tree of Heaven Attracts Devilishly Destructive Spotted Lanternfly

The Spotted Lanternfly has made it's way to New Jersey from Pennsylvania and found a home in its favorite habitat, the Tree of Heaven. 

What is a Spotted Lanternfly?

The Spotted Lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula (White), is an invasive planthopper, native to China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and introduced to Japan and Korea where it has become a major pest that attacks grapevines, nursery plants, fruit trees and also tends to favor Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima). Grape harvests can be decreased by 75-90%. The growth of sooty mold makes the fruit unmarketable. This pest was first spotted in Berks County Pennsylvania on September 22, 2014, and continues to plague area farms and vineyards.

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 does a Spotted Lanternfly 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 the 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?

New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher announced in July that the pest was found in Warren County on its preferred host, ailanthus also called the tree of heaven.  (Breaking News)  Dead spotted lanternflies were found last year in New York and Delaware, and a small infestation of live ones was found in Virginia.  Residents are encouraged to check for spotted lanternfly egg masses, adults and nymphs before moving outdoor items from the area. A checklist has been made available from the NJ State Department of Agriculture.

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.

Take a picture: A photograph of any life stage (including egg masses) can be submitted to SLF-plant 

Report a site: If you can't take a  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 it is 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."

(source: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture PennState Extension New Jersey Department of Agriculture)

New Jersey Pesticide Professional Continuing Education

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