Spotting the Spotted Lanternfly
The Spotted Lanternfly is a unique looking creature. Measuring about one inch long and half an inch wide, this bug has distinctive spotted outer wings. When flying, it exposes its red and black hindwings Cumberland County is now in a quarantine zone for the spotted lanternfly, so it is important to be on the lookout for these insects.
The Spotted Lanternfly is a highly invasive and destructive insect. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, they cause serious damage in trees, including oozing sap, wilting, leaf curling, and tree dieback. These bugs also leave behind a sugary substance called honeydew that encourages black sooty mold growth. While this mold is harmless to people, it is devastating to plants and trees.
Infestations of the Spotted Lanternfly are not only nuisances to residents; they are a major threat to Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry, especially in the grapes, apples, hops, and hardwood industries.
The lifecycle of the Spotted Lanternfly
From April through July, the flightless nymphs hatch and grow. The nymph stages are called instars. Every time a nymph sheds its skin, it becomes the next instar. Spotted lanternflies in the first through third instar stages look similar, with black bodies and white spots. Each instar is larger than the last, however.
From July through September, the fourth instars emerge, bright red with white spots and black bodies. The fourth instar spotted lanternflies are strong jumpers and will typically jump away when approached or prodded. The fourth instars transition to adults in late July. The adults, often present in very high numbers, feed on the woody parts of plants.
The female spotted lanternflies lay their egg masses from September through December. Those eggs typically hatch during May. A single egg mass can hold 30 to 50 eggs. Spotted lanternflies lay their egg masses on almost any outside surface-from fence posts to cinder blocks. They lay columns of eggs side-by-side and can have as many as 30 to 50 eggs per mass. The overall length of an egg mass is typically one inch long. When the female first lays the egg mass, she covers the eggs in a shiny grey putty-like covering. That covering gradually dries out and cracks over time.
What Should I Do if I Encounter a Spotted Lanternfly?
Swat it, smash it, kill it! Spotted lanternflies do not bite or harm people, so you should not be afraid to destroy them. If you spot egg masses on any surface, be sure to scrape them off.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Penn State Extension Office are closely tracking where spotted lanternflies are found. Please report any eggs or spotted lanternflies you discover and/or destroy by calling the Spotted Lanternfly Hotline at 1-888-422-3359 or visiting www.extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly.
The most important action in the fight against the spotted lanternfly is to stop it from spreading, especially to areas outside of the quarantine zone. Spotted lanternflies are very good at hitchhiking. The adults and nymphs can cling to surfaces, including the outside of moving vehicles very well. The adults are also good at hopping and flying.
The Spotted Lanternflies tend to congregate in trees, so avoid parking under trees or tree lines if possible. Make sure your vehicle’s windows are closed, as well, to avoid any unwelcome guests.