East Falls Now Article: I Spy a Spotted LanternFly

For the past nine years I have been a member of the PA House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee.  It is a committee assignment that I pursued for several reasons.  First, agriculture is the largest industry in Pennsylvania. Second, we all need to eat, yet food insecurity occurs in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Third, while I represent an urban/suburban area of the state, participating on the Agricultural and Rural Affairs committee helps me to relate to my rural colleagues where most agricultural endeavors occur.

Our commonwealth has been facing an agricultural challenge that is occurring in the southeastern part of the state, although it is slowly spreading to rural areas.

The Spotted Lanternfly (SLF), is an invasive planthopper native to China, India, and Vietnam.  The first detection of this non-native species to the United States was discovered in Pennsylvania in Berks County in September of 2014. It has since spread to 26 other counties in the Commonwealth, which are now quarantined.

A few quick facts about these pests:

SLF are destructive invasive pest threatening agricultural and ornamental plants.

SLF has also been found in 5 other states in the northeastern U.S.

SLF does not bite or sting.

SLF does not kill all trees it feeds on. SLF is a plant stressor that, along with other stressors, can cause significant damage to its host.

Stop the spread of SLF by checking your car and any outdoor equipment (grills, mowers, firewood, etc.) when going in and out of the quarantine zone.

Manage SLF on your property by scraping and destroying eggs, carefully using bands or traps on trees, removing preferred hosts, and using registered insecticides for control when appropriate.

This insect has the potential to greatly impact agricultural crops such as grapes, hops, and hardwoods; a potential loss of billions of dollars. 

It is also reducing the quality of life for people living in heavily infested areas due to the sheer number of these pests and the mess that they leave behind.

Penn State University and Extension, the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the PA Department of Agriculture (PDA) have joined forces to control and contain the spread of SLFs.  Penn State University is leading the research efforts currently underway to answer the many questions we have about the insect’s biology, pesticide studies, and the ability of the insect to adapt to the environment in Pennsylvania.   

If you see a SLF report it either online https://services.agriculture.pa.gov/SLFReport or via phone by calling 1-888-4BADFLY

What else? Kill it! Squash it, smash it...just get rid of it. And you can have a little fun while doing that by downloading the SQUISHR app from the Apple Store if you have an Iphone.

The SLF causes serious damage in trees including oozing sap, wilting, leaf curling, and tree dieback. In addition to tree damage, when the SLFs feed, they excrete a sugary substance, called honeydew, that encourages the growth of black sooty mold.

This mold is harmless to people; however, it causes damage to plants. In counties infested and quarantined for the SLF, residents report hundreds of these bad bugs that affect their quality of life and ability to enjoy the outdoors during the spring and summer months.

The SLF will cover trees, swarm in the air, and their honeydew can coat decks and play equipment.

The SLF can be controlled with a combination of physical removal and destruction of both the SLF and its eggs.  PDA has developed extensive information that can be found at www.agriculture.pa.gov

The Penn State extension Service also has great information- https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly-management-for-homeowners

Early detection is vital to the effective control of this pest and for the protection of PA agriculture and natural resources-related businesses.

When the SLF is in the nymph stage (April to October) they  have black bodies and legs, and are covered in bright white spots. They are wingless and are about ½ inch in size. As they develop into the adult stage, (July to November) the SLF At rest has grayish wings with black spots, and when flying or startled, they display vibrant red hind wings. They will grow to approx. one inch long and can jump several feet when startled. 

Given their abundance in the area and their unusual markings, they are not difficult to spot. Keeping your eyes peeled and your willingness to stomp is appreciated.

Egg laying begins in late September and continues through late November or early December and can occur on manmade surfaces in addition to plants.

In the fall, these bugs will lay egg masses with 30-50 eggs each. These are called bad bugs for a reason.  So, thank you for helping to do your part and rid our community of these colorful but destructive pests.