Spotted Lanternfly: A New Invasive Pest That is Too Close for Comfort

spotted lanternfly adult

Spotted Lanterfly Adult. Photo: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is an insect native to China that was first detected in Southeastern Pennsylvania in September 2014.  It has spread fairly rapidly since then. There were recent finds in Delaware and New York. Both were dead individual adults.

spotted lanternfly quarantin map of pennsylvania november 2017

A quarantine is in place in several counties of Southeastern Pennsylvania to restrict the spread of Spotted Lanternfly. Source: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) will likely show up in Baltimore, Harford, and Cecil Counties of Maryland, which are adjacent to the current quarantine areas in Southeastern Pennsylvania. According to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), this invasive insect is currently found 10 miles or less from the Maryland border.

This insect is a threat to many important food and timber plants. It has many host plants, including grapes, peach, cherry, beech, red maple, and black walnut, to name a few. In grapes, SLF can reduce the sugar content of the fruit by half or more. These insects feed on the phloem and xylem (nutrient and water conducting tissues) of the plant, which reduces the fruit quality.

spotted lanternfly eggs

Spotted Lanternfly egg mass on Tree of Heaven. A gray waxy substance partially covers the brown eggs, several of which are visible at the top. Photo: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

At this time of year it is possible to see the adults and their egg masses. The egg masses are difficult to detect on tree trunks. Look on Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), which is one of their preferred host plants for food and egg laying. The eggs masses are about the size of a gypsy moth egg mass (about 1 inch long), with a grayish waxy coating. (See photo above.) The eggs hatch in May. The first 3 instars (young developmental stages) are black with white spots. The last instar is red with white spots. Adults appear around the end of July. Eggs are laid in the fall, from late September through early December. There is one generation per year. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has many resources on SLF as well as good photos of its life stages.

If you have been in the quarantine area of Pennsylvania (see map above), check your vehicle for signs of these egg masses. Adult lanternflies are attracted to dark materials, such as vehicle tires. Hitching a ride on vehicles is one way these insects are going to spread into new areas. They also lay eggs on lawn furniture and other unnatural materials such as grills and camping equipment.

Research is underway on biocontrol (natural enemies) and management strategies.

If you find Spotted Lanternfly or its egg masses, please contact the University of Maryland Extension Home & Garden Information Center. Get a good picture and a sample. Send your photos to our Ask an Expert service. We will notify USDA-APHIS of confirmed sightings.

Additional Resources on Spotted Lanternfly

By Christa Carignan, Coordinator, and Mary Kay Malinoski, Extension Specialist, University of Maryland Extension, Home & Garden Information Center

2 Comments on “Spotted Lanternfly: A New Invasive Pest That is Too Close for Comfort

  1. I have them in my area. In my trees secreting honeydew on my cars and my landscape plants have turned black.
    I also witnessed the lanternfly killing a spider the same size by secreting honeydew on the spider while the spider was webbing the fly.

    Like

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