The Spotted Lanternfly: An Invasive Insect that is Beautiful but Threatening
The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is an invasive insect pest that was recently detected in Pennsylvania. Despite its name, this insect is not a fly — it’s a planthopper in the family Fulgoridae. The spotted lanternfly is native to China, India, Japan, and Vietnam, and it is known to attack many different plants, including grapes, apples, fruit trees, ornamental trees, and pines.
In fact, the potential for damage is so great that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has already issued a quarantine order for five townships, even though the insect was only detected about six weeks ago (September 22, 2014), and they have issued a Pest Alert Document to help people identify and report them.
“Since Pennsylvania is the first known home to spotted lanternfly in North America, we’re taking every possible precaution to stop its spread and eliminate this threat,” said Agriculture Secretary George Greig. “Help us by looking for adult insects and their egg clusters on your trees, cars, outside furniture — any flat surface that the eggs may be attached to. We know we’re asking a lot, but we know Pennsylvanians will assist us and help save our fruit trees, grapes, and forests.”
Even Californians are taking heed. Dr. Surendra Dara, an IPM and crop advisor at the University of California, has written about the spotted lanternfly’s biology and how to manage it in an article called “Spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is a new invasive pest in the United States.”
Adult spotted lanternflies are approximately one-inch long and 1.5 inches wide. The front wings are grey with black spots, and the hind wings are red, black, and white. The legs and head are black, and the abdomen is yellow with broad black bands.
However, with winter approaching, it’s unlikely that you’ll see adults now. Instead, look for eggs on trees and other surfaces.
Egg masses contain 30-50 eggs that adhere to flat surfaces, including tree bark. Freshly laid egg masses have a grey, waxy, mud-like coating, while hatched eggs look like brownish, seed-like deposits in four to seven columns about an inch long. Trees attacked by the spotted lanternfly will show a grey or black trail of sap down the trunk.
If you’re in Pennsylvania and you happen to see them, you can help by 1) scraping the eggs off the tree or smooth surface, 2) placing the sample in alcohol or hand sanitizer in a leak-proof container, and 3) submitting the sample to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Entomology lab for verification.
If you can’t get a sample but would like to report seeing adults or eggs, call the Bad Bug hotline at 1-866-253-7189 or submit a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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