Spotting the Invasive Lanternfly
The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is an invasive planthopper native to China, Vietnam, and India. It was confirmed in Pennsylvania in September 2014. Because of the planthopper’s presence, approximately 13 counties to date are under quarantine in the PA area. Additionally, the pest’s range has been expanding with confirmed sightings in Delaware and Virginia. The adult stage of this insect prefers the host, Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) for feeding and egg-laying, but will also feed on grapevine (Vitis vinifera). Their larval instars on the other hand are known to feed on approximately 20 additional plant species in PA, as well as agricultural crops. Adults can lay eggs on any smooth surface like siding, rocks, or bricks which makes them extremely easy to spread if they decide to attach to a trailer before a road trip. If left unchecked, this pest can result in major damage for local agriculture, as well as lead to the decline of many ornamental trees. Here are some facts and tips for spotting this invasive pest, and what you should do if you encounter it.
Adults are about 1” long with large, bright scarlet, speckled wings. When closed, their wings are light brown and speckled. Nymphs are black with white spots turning red before becoming an adult. The egg masses are covered in a gray waxy coating which can be attached to any smooth surface.
Why They Are a Problem
Adults and nymphs feed by sucking sap from the stems and leaves of their host plants. The feeding weakens the plant, causing the wounds to ooze and leaving a foul odor. Weakened plants are open to attack from other pests and diseases which can further stress or kill the plant. Along with the physical damage these insects cause, they secrete a sticky substance (honeydew), which spreads over anything underneath the attacked tree. Surfaces covered by the honeydew will then be covered in a black sooty mold, resulting in a dirty appearance.
What to Do
If you spot egg masses or the insect itself the best option is to contact your local Department of Agriculture, or your State Plant Regulatory Official http://nationalplantboard.org/membership/. If you spot egg masses, make sure to follow these three steps: 1. Scrape them off 2. Double bag them 3. Throw them away or soak them in alcohol. As mentioned earlier, these egg masses can be found on the bark of host plants or any smooth surface such as cars, trailers, siding, brick, stone, and so on. Make sure to inspect vehicles before taking trips. Adults are easiest to spot at dusk when they congregate on host plants moving up and down the trunk. If you are located in Pennsylvania and you have a tree that has spotted lanternfly in your yard you can use the product Transtect® as a basal bark spray to protect your tree. A supplemental label has been passed for Pennsylvania allowing this use. A 2-pack of Transtect will work for a 21” diameter tree applied as a spray to the trunk of the tree from the ground up to about 5’. You can find more information on Transtect and the application here https://www.thetreegeek.com/products/transtect/. If you are located in Delaware or Virginia, it is best to contact the local services listed above as the label has not been adjusted for these states yet.
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