An Arborist Shares What You Need to Know

The spotted lanternfly infestation is wreaking havoc in the United States. This invasive insect species was first discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014, and has been spreading rapidly ever since. The lanternfly is a serious pest that causes major damage to crops and trees. If you live in an area affected by this infestation, it’s important to learn about the lanternfly and how to protect your property from it.

In this blog post, I’ll provide you with information and facts about it, including how to spot signs of infestation, USDA-recommended spotted lanternfly treatment, and things to do to prevent spotted lanternfly damage.


The Spotted Lanternfly Infestation

Spotted lanternfly arrived from East Asia in 2014. Since then, it has spread to at least 14 states and caused significant damage to crops and the economy. The spotted lanternfly feeds on a wide variety of plants, including grapes, apples, peaches, and many hardwood trees. While they do not usually kill plant hosts, they greatly weaken them and cause extensive crop damage, reduced yields, and increased consumer prices.

In addition, infestations produce large amounts of “honeydew,” which attracts other pests and leads to the growth of sooty mold. This honeydew also makes it difficult for farmers to harvest their crops. As a result, spotted lanternfly infestations have caused economic damages totaling in the millions of dollars.


Which States Have Spotted Lanternfly Been Found In?

The USDA has confirmed the presence of spotted lanternfly in the following states:

  • Connecticut
  • West Virginia
  • Pennsylvania
  • Delaware
  • North Carolina
  • Virginia
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Maryland


Here’s a map of confirmed lanternfly infestation and spread by year

Could The Lanternfly Come To Florida?

The spotted lanternfly has spread aggressively in all directions from its original infestation point in Pennsylvania. They are not yet confirmed in Florida. However, the Florida Department of Agriculture issued this pest alert for them

The pest alert indicates that the Sunshine State considers lanternfly infestations and spotted lanternfly damage as highly probable. The main reason for this is because Florida is home to the lanternfly’s favored host tree, the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima). Like the lanternfly, this tree is also invasive. It’s documented as far south as Hillsborough County.

This scientific model projects the potential distribution of lanternflies. It shows a potential nation-wide range that includes North Florida


What Does A Lanternfly Look Like And How To Spot One

spotted lanterfly 1If you’ve spotted a striking, large black and red spotted, moth-type insect sitting on your deck or flying around your yard, you may be dealing with a lanternfly. It gets its name from the characteristic lantern-like shape of its body.

In addition to their distinctive black and red spotted wings, spotted lanternflies also have long antennae and a yellow abdomen. This USDA video tells you exactly how to spot the pest.

Once you spot it, an infestation can progress very quickly. Before you know it, you could see dense “crowds” of them parked on their favorite tree or plant.

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What Do Spotted Lanternfly Eggs Look Like?

Along with learning to recognize the adult lanternfly, learning how to spot its eggs and juveniles is equally important.

Egg clusters are about an inch long and are typically laid on smooth surfaces like leaves or tree bark. The eggs are shiny and grey-brown when they’re first laid but turn more matte gray as they mature. They’re laid in late summer and Autumn.

If you see clusters of jewel-toned, red flying insects clustered along trunks and branches, especially saplings, you might be looking an spotted lanternfly infestation of juveniles.

These photos show egg masses and juvenile clusters.


What Trees Are Affected By Spotted Lanternfly?

Lanternflies affect at least 70 plant and tree species

Unfortunately, they seem to prefer several crop-yielding plants. Affected plants and trees include grape, stone fruits like peaches and apples, many nursery and ornamental plants, roses, cherry, black walnut, almond, hops, willow, and birch.

They tend to avoid oak and conifer species, although the USDA lists oak as at risk for infestation


What Are Signs Of Spotted Lanternfly Damage And Infestation?

With a little knowledge, it’s relatively easy to spot lanternfly infestation damage. According to the USDA, here are the most important things to look for:

  • Oozing, weeping, and a fermented odor are all signs of infestation.
  • Look for a sticky build up (known as honeydew) on the plant or at its base.
  • Be aware of signs of mold, as well as secondary pest infestations. Stinging insects like wasps are highly attracted to the honeydew byproduct of lanternfly feeding.


3 USDA Recommended Spotted Lanternfly Treatments

The lanternfly has no natural predators in the United States, and therefore it can quickly decimate crops and trees if left unchecked. Early detection and treatment is key to preventing serious spotted lanternfly damage. The USDA recommends a three-pronged approach to treatment: applying pesticides, removing egg masses, and destroying habitat.

Pesticides are most effective when applied early in the season before adult lanternflies have a chance to lay their eggs. Egg masses can be removed by hand or with a power washer, and they should be destroyed by crushing or burning.

Finally, the lanternfly’s favorite host plants should be removed or treated with pesticides to prevent adult Lanternflies from laying their eggs on them. By following these recommendations, farmers and homeowners can help protect their crops and trees from the devastating effects of the lanternfly.


What Should You Do If You Suspect A Spotted Lanternfly Infestation?

If you suspect you have a lanternfly infestation on your hands, you should report the potential infestation to your state. Most states with confirmed populations have reporting instructions. Click here to see if your state has posted instructions and what they are

Visit USDA Animal and Plant Inspection to learn more about things you can do, including conducting effective inspections and DIY egg scraping.

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