What are Spotted Lanternflies & What Can We Do to Stop Them?

October 20, 2019

spotted lanternfly banner image

What Do We Know?

The Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is a hot topic in Southeastern PA.  It even made Best Columns: The US in The Week Magazine on October 18, due to the fact that they damage to fruit trees, grapevines and many ornamental shade trees.

What Can You Do?

Spotted Lanternflies deposit their eggs on hard surfaces in the fall.  If you see them, scrape the eggs into a bag of alcohol or hand sanitizer.  The spring hatch goes through 4 nymph stages until reaching adult status.  The instars (first 3 stages of nymphs) are very small and black, hopping from plant to plant or crawling up the trunk feeding as they go.  The color comes in the 4th nymph stage (small red and black) and in adult lanternflies (with black bodies and bright colored wings that are closed when hopping).

Click here to learn what you can do to prevent Spotted Lanternflies during the spring season.

Only adults can fly, but they jump more than fly.  One generation a year survives from 30-50 eggs per adult.  Spotted Lanternflies feed using a piercing mouthpart and excrete honeydew which encourages the growth of black sooty mold.  If you see sooty mold on your plants it could be from Spotted Lanternflies, BUT remember to identify the source of the mold which could be from other pests.

spotted lanternflies on a stick with their wings shut

French & Pickering Trust suggested a list of ways to stop the spread of lanternflies which we have digested a bit for you.

  1. Squash them.
  2. Spray directly with insecticidal soap, vinegar or water with Dawn liquid soap.
  3. Use sticky tape on trees with care – caution as the tape can trap good species as well (bees, butterflies and small birds).
  4. Plant Milkweed, which is toxic (poisonous) to lanternflies.  Milkweed can also help save the Monarch Butterfly from extinction.
  5. Remove egg masses you see on trees, outdoor equipment, etc.
  6. Remove Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), a primary host to Spotted Lanternfly, with care – 2 reasons…. 1) They have a foul odor and 2) The tree grows back if not completely removed at the root.
  7. Have affected trees systemically treated by a certified arborist.

Pesticides: A Word of Caution

There is no known native species of anything that kills lanternflies.  As with the use of noxious pesticides, introduction of another pest to destroy an insect is undocumented and unknown possible consequences which could be far worse than the original problem could occur.

You may find a list of pesticides that will kill Spotted Lanternflies.  They probably will do the job BUT may also damage beneficial insects such as pollinator bees and butterflies not to mention small birds.  There are systemic pesticides which may prove less toxic to our flying friends, but do be careful when using anything with ‘cide’ in its name.  That means it kills.  Plus it’s unknown what additional unexpected damage these products may have on our bodies and our environment.

Nobody is an Expert!

According to Penn State Extension, Spotted Lanternfly professionals are difficult to come by, although many people are advertising Spotted Lanternfly removal services. Unfortunately, while you may be able to hire someone to help combat lanternflies, there’s truly no experts on how to properly & safely get rid of them at this time.

Additional Resources:  Penn State Extension, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, French & Pickering Conservation Trust

Posted In: Pest Control