What is Spotted Lanternfly?
Spotted lanternfly (SLF), Lycorma delicatula, is an invasive pest that’s native to China. It was first detected in 2014 in southeastern Pennsylvania. SLF has spread since then and is currently under quarantine in 13 Pennyslvania counties (see map below). SLF doesn’t bite or sting humans but poses a serious threat to our agricultural industry.
Which plants are affected?
The pest feeds primarily on tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) but also feeds on other plants such as grapevine, hops, maple, walnut, fruit trees, etc. SLF has a wide host range and can also attack the plants in your backyard! It can cause serious damage to host plants that it feeds on. This pest has a piercing-sucking mouthpart that’s tapped into the plant like a straw. It sucks sap from the plant, eventually weakening and killing it.
Identification and Life Cycle
SLF completes its life cycle within one year. Adults lay 1-inch-long egg masses in the fall on hard surfaces (trees, decks, houses, outdoor equipment, vehicles, firewood, etc.) The eggs are protected with a mud-like covering and hatch in the spring. They go through four nymph stages and can be seen as early as April. Nymphs are black with white spots during the first three stages and appear red and white during the last stage. The adults emerge in July and are about 1 inch long and ½ inch wide at rest with eye-catching wings. The SLF adult remains active until winter and can fly whereas the nymphs are only able to hop. However, the adult’s wings often remain closed since they tend to jump more than fly.
4 Steps of SLF Management
What can you do to help control and eradicate SLF? Follow these five simple steps:
- Stop the Spread. You can help stop the SLF from spreading by checking for egg masses from late fall to early spring and removing them. Also, check for nymphs and adults and keep car windows rolled up when you park. Remember to check your car and outdoor hard surfaces for signs of them, especially if you’re travelling in and out of the quarantine zone. Feel free to remove and crush the SLF.
- Scrape and Destroy SLF Eggs. Inspect your property for egg masses on a regular basis. You’ll most likely find them from September to June. You can scrape off egg masses from surfaces by using a plastic card or putty knife. Scrape them into a bag or container filled with isopropyl alcohol to kill them.
- Remove Tree-of-Heaven. The tree-of-heaven is a favorite host of the SLF and an invasive species of tree. Remove the tree from your property by getting rid of the entire root system. After cutting the tree down, treat the stump with herbicide to prevent re-growth.
- Use Chemical Control. Contact insecticides (bifenthrin and carbaryl) kill SLFs when the chemical contacts the pest as a direct spray or if it walks over a surface with the chemical residue. Systemic insecticides, (dinotefuran and imidacloprid) are absorbed by the tree and the SLF is killed as it feeds on it. Other more environmentally friendly solutions such as Neem oil and insecticidal soap also provide some control.
Another recommended strategy for controlling SLFs is to band trees with sticky tape in order to trap the nymphs in spring. However, the downside to using tape is that other animals such as birds are also trapped. it may be best to try the other control methods first.
What is Floral & Hardy Doing to Control SLF?
As a garden center, it’s our responsibility to control SLF to the best of our ability. We have taken the following measures:
- Inspecting plants. We have plants arriving daily and check them for SLFs.
- Destroying SLFs. The SLFs that are found on our plants are destroyed, using various methods.
- Chemical Control. Our trees have been treated with dinotefuran which is a systemic insecticide that has proven to be effective (see above).
The Spotted Lanternfly is not a pest that can be ignored! It’s everyone’s responsibility to try to contain the spread of this invasive and destructive insect. Unfortunately, it’s already been spotted in neighboring Pennsylvania states such as Delaware and New Jersey. Researchers are working tirelessly to find a solution which may include using biocontrol and microbial control agents. In the meantime, let’s do our part!