What is spotted lanternfly?
The spotted lanternfly resembles a moth when it jumps or flies, but in reality, it is neither a fly nor a moth. It is a type of planthopper that belongs to the Order Hemiptera (cicadas, leafhoppers, and aphids). The adults prefer to feed primarily on the non-native host plant “tree of heaven” (Allianthus altissima) while the immature stages (or nymphs) will feed on a wide range of trees, fruits, and even grape vines. Spotted lanternfly egg masses (or clusters of eggs) are brown, seed-like in appearance, and about 1-inch long. They are covered in a mud-like secretion that helps them stay glued to a surface in a mass. After they hatch, the nymphs go through 4 growth phases, or instars. Immature nymphs are black with white spots, and they gain red markings at they mature through the 4th instar. Late stage nymphs are about ½-inch in length. Adult spotted lanternflies are 1-inch long, have brownish forewings with black spots and hindwings that are red with black spots.
What trees do they damage?
Spotted lanternflies will feed on a variety of host plants from May through November, and their feeding preferences change as they mature. Nymphs will feed on a wide-range of host plants while the adults target only a few species. There are over 65 known species of plants that the SLF will feed on, including ornamental trees (like lilac and dogwood), fruit trees, vines (like grapes), small fruits (such as blueberries), hops, and several vegetables.
Preferred plant species for SLF nymphs:
Tree of heaven
Prunus spp. (plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots)
Preferred tree species for SLF adults:
Tree of heaven
In addition to this information many of the East Coast farmers and businesses rely on these trees for financial stability. More over, this makes up approximately, 65 percent of the East Coasts economy.
How to control spotted lanternfly
There are 5 steps that need to be taken to help control and prevent the spread of spotted lanternfly.
Stop the spread. If you live in or visit areas of the U.S. where SLF has been found, check any outdoor items for egg masses before moving them. This includes vehicles, firewood, outdoor furniture, picnic tables, boats, and children’s toys.
Remove the eggs. From late September through May, be on the lookout for egg masses. The egg masses can be scraped off surfaces using a knife or a thin plastic card. The egg masses should be sealed in a plastic bag or placed directly into hand sanitizer or alcohol to kill them before they are disposed of.
Control the nymphs. From late April through early November, tree banding using a product like Tree Tanglefoot® Insect Barrier, can be done to high risk host trees to capture the nymphs as the climb the trunk to feed. The tree bands should be routinely removed and replaced every 1 to 2 weeks through July. Nymphs can also be controlled by spraying them with Ortho® Home Defense® Insect Killer for Lawn & Landscape Concentrate and Ready-To-Spray or Ortho® Bug B Gon® Insect Killer for Lawns & Gardens Concentrate and Ready-To-Spray following label directions.
Remove tree of heaven. From mid-summer through early-fall, cut down high-risk host plants for the adult SLF, like tree of heaven. To prevent the SLF from damaging other plants on your property, only remove about 90% of the host trees and use the remaining 10% as “trap trees” so you can control the adult SLFs. Cut down the trees and then treat the stumps with a tough brush killer, like Ortho® MAX® Poison Ivy & Tough Brush Killer Concentrate, following label directions. Note: Tree of heaven is difficult to control and may require several applications to fully kill the root system. Remember, if you live in a quarantined county in PA, the wood cannot be removed from the quarantined area.
Control the adults. When the adults emerge from June-August, control them with an insecticide application. Ortho® Home Defense® Insect Killer for Lawn & Landscape Concentrate and Ready-To-Spray or Ortho® Bug B Gon® Insect Killer for Lawns & Gardens Concentrate and Ready-To-Spray will kill spotted lanternfly on contact when applied following label directions.
Please remember that all sightings of spotted lanternfly adults, nymphs, and egg masses should be reported to your local university extension or state plant regulatory official, as well as the PA Department of agriculture.
We’re still gathering information on more quarantined states.