Spotted lanternflies are arguably one of the top crop and vegetation destroying pests in Pennsylvania each year. Adult spotted lanternflies emerge in July and remain active until winter. Adults are easiest to identify as they are approximately one inch in size and are very active. They have black bodies and gray wings with black spots. When their wings are open, you may notice red markings near the bottom portion of their wings. Spotted lanternflies lay their eggs in the fall on hard surfaces, such as trees, homes or rocks. The eggs are protected by mud and hatch in the fall and after the eggs hatch, there are four nymph stages before adulthood. Spotted lanternflies attack crops, crippling farmers and destroying ornamental plants, bushes, and trees that may be on your property.
Why are spotted lanternflies in Pennsylvania?
The spotted lanternfly is native to China, India, Vietnam, and introduced to Korea where it has become a major pest. The first confirmed infestation within the United States was in Berks County, Pennsylvania in September of 2014. It is likely that they were introduced by stowing away in shipping crates as eggs, which are laid 30-50 at a time. The spotted lanternfly has now grown to be an epidemic across Pennsylvania, threatening the lives of foliage, crops, and trees.
Spotted lanternflies spread in several ways. They can hitchhike in cars and open transportation vehicles such as horse trailers and dog crates. By parking under trees, you put yourself at a greater risk of spotted lanternflies entering your car whether it be from a window left cracked open, when a door opens, or in trunks. They are known to rest on the outside of cars which makes it easy for you to unknowingly spread them. Although they do not pose direct health treats to humans and pets in terms of biting or spreading disease, agriculture and vegetation are highly at risk to their breeding and activity.
What do spotted lanternflies look like?
Spotted lanternflies look different during each of the stages in their life cycle. Eggs are found in “masses” of 30-50 eggs that appear to be what some describe as splotches of mud or unevenly spread mortar. If you see a suspected egg mass, scrape it off into a bag or container and either submerge it in alcohol or hand sanitizer to kill them. Never leave spotted lanternfly egg masses alone. The easiest way to control them is to kill them before they hatch.
Once spotted lanternflies hatch from their eggs, they emerge in the nymph stage. They are black or red with white polka dots and roughly between ¼-½ inch long. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture provides clear identification: “The Spotted Lanternfly adult is approximately 1” long and 1/2” wide at rest. The forewing is grey with black spots and the wings tips are reticulated black blocks outlined in grey. The hind wings have contrasting patches of red and black with a white band. The legs and head are black; the abdomen is yellow with broad black bands. Immature stages are black with white spots, and develop red patches as they grow.”
They feed on a large host of plants including fruit trees, vegetables, vines, and the tree of heaven. If you have a tree of heaven on your property, there is a significantly greater chance that spotted lanternflies will invade because it’s their primary food of choice. Tree of heaven was first found in the Philadelphia area in 1784. Since then, it has spread across the nation as a highly invasive tree, still common to our area today. Problems persist with their growth due to the challenges their removal poses. Your first thought is probably to call a professional to take the tree down completely. Unfortunately, tree of heaven has an elaborate root system underground that makes it near impossible to prevent regrowth after removal. Cutting down a tree of heaven is not recommended because of the potential to grow even more extensively once the roots begin to repair. Guidelines for homeowner efforts in spotted lanternfly control for tree of heaven can be found here as outlined by the Penn State Extension.
Why are spotted lanternflies dangerous?
Spotted lanternflies are incredibly destructive and can cause damage quickly because of their habit to collect in large numbers. Not only are they a threat to trees, but they also feed upon popular crops such as grapes, apples, hops, and peaches, making it challenging for farmers to grow. They have the potential to bring our agricultural sectors in the region to their knees. As spotted lanternflies feed on plant life, they secrete honeydew that can drench play sets and even decks. Pennsylvania is also known for their attractive state parks. There is an immediate threat to these parks because of potential geographic expansion of populations if a spotted lanternfly were to stow away with a park visitor.
What should I do if I find spotted lanternflies?
Finding spotted lanternfly egg masses before they hatch is your best defense against infestations. If you spot egg masses, Penn State Extension recommends that you scrape them into a ziplock bag with the edge of a credit card and then pour rubbing alcohol in to effectively kill the unborn larvae. If you find spotted lanternflies, squash them immediately. They are not known to bite, so you are not in any imminent danger when coming into contact with spotted lanternflies.
If you find spotted lanternflies in any stage of their lifecycle, report the sighting using the links provided below, broken out by state:
All Other States In The US: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/resources/pests-diseases/hungry-pests/slf/spotted-lanternfly
How does Seitz Bros. get rid of spotted lanternflies?
Seitz Bros. provides lanternfly services to help you deal with spotted lanternfly eggs or adult lanternflies.
Fill out the contact form on this page or give Seitz Bros. a call today to set up a free spotted lanternfly inspection at your home!