By Crystal Echeverria | Published on 11/19/21
We’ve all run into the beautiful little ecosystem wreckers known as spotted lanternflies. These pests are an invasive species from China that found their way to Pennsylvania on a shipping container. They were first detected in September of 2014, and have only grown in population since.
According to USDA APHIS, “Spotted lanternfly feeds on a wide range of fruit, ornamental and woody trees, with tree-of-heaven being one of the preferred hosts.”, making Pennsylvania the perfect breeding ground for them. They can spread when humans transport infected wood that contains eggs and larva of the flies. With logging season in swing, we can only hope that the spotted lanternflies decided to listen to the health teachers and practice abstinence.
What makes spotted lanternflies so dangerous to Pennsylvania’s ecosystem is that they nest and breed inside of trees, leaving holes that make the trees vulnerable to disease. The spread of these insects could jeopardize the grape, orchard, and logging industries.
If you are outside and see anything that looks like the lumps the red arrows are pointing to:
AP IMAGES / @VCMCQUIRE
That is spotted lanternfly larvae.
They do not just leave their eggs on trees, but on any flat surfaces. Branches, rocks, or any equipment kept outdoors should be checked for spotted lanternfly larvae.
If you see spotted lanternfly larvae/eggs, you should scrape them into a container with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. The high acidity will kill them on the spot, preventing another generation of beautiful little ecosystem destroyers.
How does one kill a grown spotted lanternfly?
Squash them… strategically.
Spotted Lanternflies are good at hopping, but not so much at flying. Placing your shoe above the fly, covering as much area around the fly as possible, you can reduce the space it can use to escape. Stepping on it slowly will reduce the chance that it hops away because spotted lanternflies have no natural predators, and most flies have not developed the instincts to detect danger that isn’t immediate.
Spray them with vinegar or oil
If you happen to be wearing your red bottom shoes when you see one of these red-spotted flies, another, much faster alternative to squashing is spraying them with white vinegar or neem oil. All you need to do is fill a small bottle with one of the substances and keep it in places you know spotted lanternflies are prevalent.
So where can you find spotted lanternflies (to eliminate)?
Spotted lanternflies love trees (especially tree-of-heaven) and condensed yet open spaces. They can often be seen in cities, urban settings, forests, and industrial areas. They are able to climb on vertical surfaces like walls and doors, and can even walk upsidedown.
If you live or work in an infested area, these tips will prevent further spread:
- Check Your Vehicle: Before leaving a parking lot or work site, inspect vehicles for spotted lanternfly egg or insects. Check doors, sides, bumpers, wheel wells, grills, and roofs. If found, destroy any eggs or insects you find.
- Inspect Items Being Moved: Check shipping containers, propane tanks, pallets and other items being stored outdoors before they are moved off-site. Inspect incoming goods for egg masses and insects.
- Park with Windows Closed: The spotted lanternfly and its nymphs can enter vehicles unsuspectedly. When parked, make sure to keep windows closed. If possible, try to park 15 feet away from trees if in a quarantine zone.
- Remove and Destroy Pests: Crush nymphs and adult insects. Scrape egg masses into a plastic bag containing hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol to kill them. Treatment information can be found through PennState Extension or your local cooperative extension service
- Remove Host Trees: Spotted lanternflies prefer the ailanthus tree, also known as “Tree of Heaven.” Try to remove trees from the business property to avoid attracting spotted lanternfly.
- Report Sightings: In Pennsylvania, contact the Penn State Extension program. Outside Pennsylvania, contact your state agricultural department to report sightings outside of quarantined zones. If possible, take a picture or capture the insect in alcohol.
These bullet points were pulled directly from the USDA APHIS website under the resource section; Businesses Can Help Stop the Spotted Lanternfly, and all credit for the information provided in them goes to those who wrote and published the original source.
Spotted lanternfly populations are currently found in 11 states including: Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.USDA APHIS
Another thing to keep in mind is that spotted lanternflies have life cycles and change in appearance throughout that cycle.
Being aware of spotted lanternfly populations and how to reduce them will protect your local ecosystem and tree-dependent companies.