Keep an eye out for the newest predator in town – the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula). This exotic pest is native to China, India, and Vietnam. It was first spotted in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 2014, and has spread rapidly throughout the area. The spotted lanternfly feeds on more than 70 plants, including grapes, cherries, maples, and stone fruits, but the Ailanthus altissima, commonly known as the “Tree of Heaven,” is its preferred meal of choice.
People all over the five-county region are contacting PHS asking what they can do. If you have Ailanthus on your property, consider removing them, then treat the remaining “trap trees” with systemic insecticides. This will offer the best long-term solution.
If you find just a few lanternflies and would like to kill them without controlling Ailanthus, swatting or crushing them is advised. These bugs are leafhoppers, so they can be hard to catch. For large populations, two kinds of insecticides will kill spotted lanternfly adults. Contact insecticides will kill them with direct contact; systemic insecticides are absorbed by the tree and kill the insects feeding on it. Consult a certified pesticide applicator when in question.
Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Agriculture, Russell Redding, has estimated that the spotted lanternfly infestation could result in the loss of as much as $18 billion in agricultural revenue. Governor Tom Wolf has placed 13 counties around and including the Philadelphia area under quarantine, a move designed to stop the pest from spreading any further. It may already be too late; the spotted lanternfly has already been spotted in one county in Delaware, three in New Jersey, and two in New York.
Egg masses are laid during the fall and early winter and appear as one- to two-inch-long gray mud smears with 30 to 50 brown eggs underneath. This time of year, the egg masses turn dark brown and appear cracked and scaly. Egg masses are laid on any hard surface, including cars and firewood. Always check these surfaces before traveling outside the quarantine area.
Follow these Instructions from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture if you discover eggs or the spotted lanternfly:
If you see egg masses: Scrape them off, double bag them and throw them away. You can also place the eggs in alcohol or hand sanitizer to kill them. Please report all destroyed egg masses to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Collect a specimen: Specimens of any life stage can be turned in to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Entomology lab for verification. Submit samples with the Entomology Program Sample Submission Form.
Take a picture: A photograph of any life stage (including egg masses) can be submitted to [email protected]
Report a site: If you can’t take a specimen or photograph, call the spotted lanternfly hotline at 1.888.4BAD.FLY (1.888.422.3359) with information regarding your sighting.