How to Find & Identify the Spotted Lanternfly
November 5, 2018
Among Pennsylvania’s long list of pests and invasive species, one of the most recent is the Spotted Lanternfly. Indigenous to China, Vietnam, and India, the Spotted Lanternfly was first observed in Berks County, Pennsylvania in September 2014, and is thought to have been introduced by accident.
For the past four years, a space of 6,900 sq. miles where the insect is found has been under quarantine, largely because of the severe damage the Spotted Lanternfly is capable of doing to local trees. Having no natural predators in their new environment, Spotted Lanternflies feed on the sap within both woody and non-woody plants and can, therefore, do tremendous damage to hardwoods, fruit trees, timber, and ornamental plants including varieties such as ashes, tulips, sassafras, cherries, and pears.
How Do Identify the Spotted Lanternfly?
Identifying the Spotted Lanternfly is dependent on the time of year. Honing your knowledge of the Spotted Lanternfly lifecycle will help you find and identify the invasive pest before you have an infestation on your hands.
Adult Spotted Lanternflies will lay their eggs between September and November. The egg masses overwinter on trees, vehicles, and buildings from October to June and they can be camouflaged shockingly well. Spotted lanternfly egg masses resemble mantis egg masses and tree fungus, so it’s important to look closely and identify the egg masses correctly. Between May and June, the first instar nymphs hatch. These early mumps are less than a ¼-inch long and a black body with small white spots. Occasionally, the first instar nymph may be mistaken for a tick.
The second and third instar nymph is also black with white spots, but the pest grows slightly between each stage. By the fourth instar stage, the nymph will begin to turn red and will be as long as ¾-inch. By July, all of the fourth instar nymphs will molt into adult Spotted Lanternflies approximately 1-inch in length. Adults will have pink-toned tent-shaped wings with black spots covering about ⅔ of the body and a brick pattern making up the remaining third. When Spotted Lanternflies are threatened or startled, they will open their wings and prepare to jump or take flight. With their wings opened, you will notice their bright red underwings.
How Can I Deter Spotted Lanternflies?
The most efficient method of eliminating them is to disrupt their favorite food source, which in the late summer and fall is the Ailanthus altissima, commonly known as the “Tree of Heaven” or Chinese sumac. Though they feed on other plants as well, Ailanthus altissima is their favored host this time of year.
If you suspect you have a Tree of Heaven on your property, you should consult a qualified tree professional as soon as possible. These trees are magnets for infestation and can put other trees on your property at risk. In general, many professionals will recommend that you remove the tree completely. In some cases, tree experts may recommend treating your tree with insecticide.
To learn how to identify the Ailanthus altissima, watch this quick informational video from All The Above Tree Service, your source for tree care services in Langhorne:
I Have a Spotted Lanternfly Infestation On My Property. What Should I Do?
While there is no 100% effective method on how to kill Spotted Lanternflies, catching and squishing them is a particularly good method. If you discover just a few Spotted Lanternflies at a time, you can easily eliminate them by swatting or crushing them. However, insecticides will be necessary for larger populations; two kinds of which are widely available. There are contact insecticides, which will kill Spotted Lanternflies when the chemical contacts the insect directly. In contrast, systemic insecticides are absorbed into trees, killing the insects that feed on them. All insecticides must be used as directed on the label. Take the time to read the instructions of any products carefully and to follow the directions provided.
For safety and legal reasons, do not attempt to use home remedies in place of tested and approved insecticides.