Spotted Lantern Fly Briefing

Note: This website has nothing to do with he Spotted Lantern Fly … but we gets lots of people searching for the “Spotted Lantern Fly” and I guess we have the keywords “Spot” and “Fly” in common. So I decided to write up a brief about the Spotted Lantern Fly and provide those wayward searchers with some decent information rather than a black hole of Fly Fishing Spots.

The USDA has an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service page with additional information.

Summary: The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is an invasive insect native to Asia, first discovered in the United States in 2014. It feeds on a wide range of host plants and poses a significant threat to agriculture, forestry, and ornamental plant industries. Control and management efforts focus on quarantines, public awareness campaigns, research into biological control agents, and chemical control methods.

Snazzy USDA video

The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is an invasive insect species native to China, India, and Vietnam. First discovered in the United States in 2014 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, this pest has since spread to multiple states in the eastern US, causing significant damage to various agricultural crops, ornamental plants, and hardwood trees.

Physical Description: The spotted lanternfly is a striking insect, with adults displaying a colorful pattern of black, grey, red, and white on their wings. The adults are approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) long and 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) wide. The nymphs, or immature lanternflies, are smaller, with a black and white pattern initially, which turns to red and black as they mature.

Life Cycle: The spotted lanternfly has a single generation per year, with eggs typically laid in the fall, between late September and early November. Females lay their eggs in masses of 30-50, covering them with a waxy, mud-like substance that hardens into a protective coating. The eggs overwinter and hatch in late April or early May, releasing nymphs that undergo four stages (instars) before reaching adulthood. Adult lanternflies can be seen from July to November, with their peak activity occurring in August and September.

Host Plants and Feeding: The spotted lanternfly feeds on a wide range of host plants, with over 70 different species reported as potential hosts. However, its preferred host is the tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), another invasive species native to Asia. The lanternfly uses its piercing-sucking mouthparts to feed on the sap of host plants, causing direct damage to the plant by weakening it and potentially introducing disease.

Economic and Environmental Impact: The spotted lanternfly poses a serious threat to agriculture, forestry, and ornamental plant industries in the United States. It has caused substantial damage to vineyards, fruit trees, and hardwood trees, leading to significant economic losses. Additionally, their feeding habits can weaken host plants, making them more susceptible to diseases, further exacerbating the problem. The insect also excretes a sugary substance called honeydew, which promotes the growth of sooty mold, further damaging plants and making them unattractive to consumers.

Control and Management: Efforts to control the spread of the spotted lanternfly include quarantines, public awareness campaigns, research into biological control agents, and chemical control methods. Some measures that can be taken to reduce the spread and impact of this pest are:

  1. Quarantines: Restricting the movement of materials that may harbor egg masses, such as firewood, outdoor furniture, and construction materials, to limit the lanternfly’s range expansion.
  2. Public awareness: Educating the public to recognize and report sightings of spotted lanternflies and their egg masses, enabling more effective control efforts.
  3. Biological control: Research is underway to identify natural predators, parasites, or pathogens that could help control spotted lanternfly populations.
  4. Chemical control: The use of insecticides may be necessary in some situations, but care should be taken to minimize the impact on non-target species.

Early detection and rapid response are key to managing the spread of this invasive insect and mitigating its impacts on the environment and economy.

Additional Information:

Monitoring and Surveillance: Regular monitoring of high-risk areas, such as transportation hubs, nurseries, and agricultural sites, can help detect new infestations early. Visual inspections, sticky traps, and other surveillance techniques can be used to identify and track the presence of spotted lanternflies.

Mechanical Control: Mechanical control methods, such as scraping egg masses off surfaces, can help reduce lanternfly populations. Another method is the removal or treatment of the tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), the lanternfly’s preferred host plant, to limit its access to preferred feeding and breeding sites.

Community Involvement: Encouraging community involvement in the detection, reporting, and management of spotted lanternflies can be an effective way to address the problem. Many states have established hotlines or online reporting systems to facilitate public reporting of spotted lanternfly sightings, which can help authorities to track and respond to new infestations.

Research and Development: Continued research and development are essential for finding novel and effective control methods. This includes studying the spotted lanternfly’s biology, behavior, and interactions with host plants, as well as the development of new technologies and strategies for detection and control.

International Collaboration: Since the spotted lanternfly is an invasive species, international collaboration is important to share information, best practices, and resources to prevent the spread of the pest and manage its impacts. Cross-border cooperation can help improve global efforts to combat the lanternfly and other invasive species.

In conclusion, the spotted lanternfly poses a significant challenge to ecosystems and economies in the regions it has invaded. Comprehensive and coordinated efforts involving governments, researchers, industry stakeholders, and local communities are crucial to effectively manage this pest and mitigate its adverse impacts.