There’s a new bad bug in town — the Spotted Lanternfly (SLF). You may have heard about it on the news — it’s basically taking over Southeast Pennsylvania. As of right now, over a dozen counties, including Chester and Delaware Counties, have been under quarantine to stop the movement of this incredibly damaging insect to other areas of the state. Here’s what you should know about it:
What is the Spotted Lanternfly?
The Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is a new invasive insect in southeastern Pennsylvania that was discovered in 2014 in Berks County. It’s native to China, India, and Vietnam. While it doesn’t bite or sting, it is very destructive because of its feeding habits and has the potential to cause billions of dollars in damage to Pennsylvania’s economy, mainly on the hops, grape, and logging industries.
How to spot a Spotted Lanternfly
They’re actually quite beautiful, for bugs. But don’t be fooled — these are beautiful disasters. They look different in their different life stages, but one thing is certain for every stage, which makes them easy to spot — their spots! Adults are approximately 1” long and 1/2” wide when they’re at rest. Their forewing (front/top wing) is gray with black spots, and the tips of those wings are reticulated black blocks outlined in gray. Their hind wings have red and black contrasting patches with a white band. Their legs and head are black, their abdomen is yellow with wide thick bands. When in their younger stages, they’re black with white spots, and develop red patches as they grow. A newly-laid egg mass will have a gray mud-like appearance that can take on a dry, cracked lok over time. Old egg masses often appears as rows of 30-50 brownish seed-like deposits, in 4-7 columns on a trunk, about an inch long. Take a look at the photo below, courtesy of Penn State Extension:
Where to find them
Spotted Lanternflies prefer the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), also known as the Paradise tree, which is another invasive species to Pennsylvania. While this tree seems to be their “favorite,” SLFs are by no means picky — they’re known to feed on more than 70 types of plants, including hops, apples, grapes, walnuts, and other hardwood trees.
How they’re harmful
The SLF attacks fruit trees and plants, but not the actual fruit. It has piercing and sucking mouthparts that feed on the sap in trunks, branches, leaves, and twigs. When they do this, they leave behind a black or grayish trail of oozing wounds on the bark of the plant. When SLFs digest the sap, they excrete a substance known as “honeydew” that, along with the wounds left on the plants, attract bees and other insects. You might notice a buildup of this sticky stuff on infested plants and the ground below them. The sticky honeydew and sap mixture also provide a medium for growth of fungi like sooty mold, which can cover the surfaces of leaves, and stunt growth. If a plant is heavily infested with SLFs, it is unlikely to survive. Therefore, Pennsylvania’s agricultural and forestry-based industries of lumber, hops, grapes, and others are in grave danger because of these bugs.
What does it mean to be under “quarantine”?
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) is trying to stop the spread of SLFs from one county to the next, which means regulating the movement of plants, plant-based materials, and household items out of the quarantined area. Right now, 13 counties are considered quarantine areas, but that could change. (If you are unsure if you’re in a quarantine area, the PDA has an interactive map where you can plug in your address and find out.)
To comply with the quarantine, there are things you can do to help stop the spread of Spotted Lanternflies:
- Educate yourself of what they look like at every life stage
- Check the latest quarantine map information on the PDA website
- Avoid parking or storing things under trees in infested areas. That’s an easy way for SLFs to become “stowaways” and travel, thus spreading the threat elsewhere
- If you have a business, you should get a permit issued by the PDA that shows you’ve completed training on how to follow the rules of the quarantine order. Contact your regional PDA office for more information about this.
- Inspect any items you’re moving from within quarantined areas to areas outside the quarantined area You should remove and destroy any Spotted Lanternfly that you find before you move the item. The PDA has created a checklist before you move anything, you can find the downloadable PDF at this link. We encourage everyone to print this out.
There are other ways to comply with the quarantine, which can be found at this link.
What to do if you spot a Spotted Lanternfly
If you spot a Spotted Lanternfly in an area not known to be already in quarantine, try to kill it and/or collect it in a jar filled with alcohol, or at least take a picture of it. Then report it using the online reporting tool or call Penn State Extension at 1-888-4BADFLY (1-888-422-3359).
There are a few ways of eliminating Spotted Lanternflies. You could crush them manually. You could use a pressure washer. If you see eggs, you could smash them or scrape them into a container of rubbing alcohol. But if you’ve got more than one or two, you’ve likely got way more than you can realistically squash. Your best bet to is to ALERT THE SQUAD!
That’s right — Mosquito Squad’s barrier treatment, the same one that eliminates mosquitoes, ticks, stink bugs and more on your property ALSO ELIMINATES Spotted Lanternflies. Call Mosquito Squad of Chester and Delaware Counties at (610) 463-0507 to get rid of your Spotted Lanternflies within our our treatment range (which is typically 20 ft in height), and know that at the same time, you’ll also be eliminating up to 90% of mosquitoes, ticks, and other bugs on your property for up to three weeks at a time. You’ll be practically bug-free in your yard and doing your part to stop the spread of an invasive species, too!