The spotted lanternfly is one of the newer invasive pests’ intent upon damaging a wide variety of trees, including hardwood and fruit. It was first discovered in 2012. The spotted lanternfly likely arrived as egg sacks on a stone delivery from Asia to Berks County PA. Since then the Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) has traveled through much of central and eastern Pennsylvania, into New Jersey and down to Virginia.
The Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) in all its stages is harmful to both hardwood and fruit trees. The adult uses its piercing-sucking mouthpart to feed on sap from over 70 different plant species. It shows a preference for trees necessary for the lumber industry including maple trees, black walnut, birch, willow, among other trees. It damages trees by feeding on sap which weakens the tree, and the wounds created attracts mold and other insects. When spotted lanternflies feed, they excrete a sugary substance, called honeydew, that encourages the growth of black sooty mold.
This is a pretty and pretty big bug which hops more than flies, referred to as a plant jumper. Prettiness aside, if you see them, do your best to crush them. As they are agile jumpers, this is often harder than it looks. This pest has no natural predators. Praying mantises will eat some as will spiders, but not in large enough numbers.
While the lifespan of an adult Spotted lanternfly is only a year, all cycles of its life are hazardous to trees. While it does not kill the tree, it will weaken it and with enough damage the tree will die.
Damage in trees includes:
- Oozing sap
- Wilting and leaf curling
- Tree dieback
The Life Cycle of the Spotted Lanternfly and actions you can take:
- The eggs are laid in the fall and hatch in the spring. Egg masses are laid on hard surfaces, trees, decks, outdoor equipment, rocks, and the like. It is protected with a mud-like covering. Each egg mass contains 30–50 eggs.
Check all your trees in the fall, as well as all outside woodpiles and stone walls. Egg sacks can be scrapped from trees, stonewalls or wood piles with a putty knife or credit card, placed in a plastic bag with hand sanitizer or alcohol and killed.
- The Nymphs stages can be hard to see due to their size, ⅛ to ½ inch. The first three stages (instars) are all black with white spots, the last instar stage is red with white dots and black stripes.
Place sticky bands about four feet from the ground and wrap it tightly against the bark of the tree. Make sure to eliminate gaps, so instars cannot crawl under the tape. Secure the wrapped sticky band with staples or pushpins. Replace the tape every other week. ‘Caging’ the tree in wire will prevent songbirds or squirrels from getting stuck to the tape.
- SLF adults emerge in July and are active until winter. They are obvious as they are large and very active, particularly at dusk. Adults have black bodies with brightly colored wings. Only the adults can fly. SLF wings are gray with black spots, and the tips of the wings are black with gray veins. Spotted lanternflies are excellent jumpers.
Crush them as you can. Make a game of it with the children, where you see one, there are more. As they have no natural predators, every one killed is a win for your trees.
The host tree for the spotted lanternfly is the Tree of Heaven which is a rapidly growing deciduous tree with pale gray bark, light brown twigs and large pinnately compound leaves, which is a leaf that has leaflets growing from several places along the stalk. It is native to China and was brought to the United States in the late 1700s and was initially used as a shade tree. It is difficult to get rid of due to its aggressive root system, which pushes out native trees, as well as cracking sidewalks.
Calling the tree professionals at Advanced Tree LLC is your best recourse for getting rid of an invasive tree which hosts the invasive Spotted Lanternfly.