THE SPOTTED LANTERNFLY
Spotted Lanternflies are Plant hoppers from the order Hemiptera like our native aphids, cicadas, or leafhoppers. We have many native species of plant hoppers in the US. Spotted Lanternflies, however, are native to countries in South East Asia.
They cannot bite. Their mouthparts, which are fused into a straw-like beak, called a proboscis that they insert into plant tissue to suck up sap are not capable of penetrating human skin. They prefer tree of heaven, walnuts and grape vines as a first choice, most any other hardwood tree as a second choice and less frequently, pine trees. Often on a given property, amongst trees of the same species, there will be a preferred specimen, meaning that of three Silver Maple trees, one is covered with Lanternflies, and the remaining two are not. This is what we call a “hot tree”.
They take advantage of any structure to rest or climb on. They also like to gather on a warm house surface when the weather is cool. They cannot damage a house. They can leave “sooty mold” and egg mass residue. When you see a black coating beneath a tree infested with spotted lanternflies, you are actually looking at a fungus called “sooty mold” that is growing on the sugar rich honeydew dripping from the spotted lanternflies in the tree above.
Several years ago they were discovered in Berks County, PA. They probably arrived as an egg mass, stuck to some packaging material and were not noticed by the recipient. They were first detected in September 2014. Since then they have been breeding and spreading.
They hatch in the spring as wingless nymphs. The nymphs hop around and feed, molting several times before their final molt into adults that can fly. In the first three stages, nymphs are black with white spots and can be easy to overlooked, as they are small and look somewhat like ants. In the fourth stage, the nymphs are more conspicuous as they are larger and red in coloration. The final molt into adults begins somewhere around the third week of July, but individuals can remain in the late nymph stage as late as October. The adults then begin to migrate out to new areas from the end of July through October. Around the third week in September, they begin mating, and then they lay eggs. The eggs are laid in groups and the groups are contained in a plaster-like covering in masses. The adults will continue to feed intermittently after egg laying, and hang around until a heavy frost kills them. Each Egg mass usually contains 30 to 50 eggs a female can lay 2-3 egg masses before they die.
Spotted Lanternflies can fly very well. They are not agile like a dragonfly or housefly, but more like a moth. They can fly relatively high and far, but not with any great level of agility. They also tend to crash land.
Our Treatment for the Spotted Lanternfly consists of using a systemic pesticide on the trunk and base of the infested Tree. Systemic insecticides are absorbed into the tree, killing the insects feeding on the sap of the tree.