Watch out! This alien insect is poised to take over Pennsylvania but we stand a chance if we find and report it early. Here’s what to do.
The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is an invasive planthopper native to China and Vietnam whose favorite food is Ailanthus, the Tree-of-Heaven. Ailanthus is a noxious weed in Pennsylvania. This bug is even worse.
Spotted lanternflies would be OK if they only ate Ailanthus, but they don’t. Their sharp mouth parts pierce the stems and suck the sap of grapevines, hops, apple trees, peaches and hardwoods including oaks and cherries. The bugs then excrete a sticky “honeydew” that coats everything below their infestation.
First discovered in North America in Berks County, PA in August 2014, the spotted lanternfly has now spread to 13 counties in southeastern PA, three in New Jersey, and one in Virginia. Quarantine and eradication programs are underway in many of these locations.
From July through November look for inch-long spotted adults, shown above and below.
The adults are boring when perched but flash red when they open their wings.
In spring and early summer you’ll see more nymphs than adults. The younger ones are black with white spots. The oldest — the last instar — is red with white spots. The group below was photographed in Berks County last month.
In autumn the females lay egg masses on trees trunks, rocks and outdoor structures then cover the eggs with a mudlike substance. The photos below show egg masses at various sites.
In the slideshow did you notice the nymph on the car tire? These bugs lay eggs on the undersides of cars so we spread them unwittingly on long distance trips! They probably got to Winchester, Virginia via Interstate 81. Check your car before you come home from southeastern PA.
Don’t let spotted lanternflies get out of hand like they did in Berks County. Eeeww!
For more information see:
- What to look for
- Have you seen one? Let’s check
- What to do if you find one
- Find out where they are: Interactive yearly maps showing the lanternfly’s spread.
- Video from Virginia Tech
(photos from Bugwood.org and Wikimedia Commons. Click on the captions to see the originals)