Flies, Pest Prevention | Posted: August 1, 2023

All About Spotted Lanternflies

Spotted lanternflies (Lycorma delicatula) are invasive pests that originated in Southeast Asia. They were accidentally introduced to the United States in 2014 and have since spread rapidly throughout several states, especially across the East Coast. These destructive pests pose a significant threat to various plant species, particularly fruit trees, ornamental trees, and certain hardwood trees. 

Since spotted lanternflies aren’t native to the States, they have no natural predators, which has contributed to their population explosion. However, some beneficial insects like wheel bugs have adapted to feed on these pests, helping to control their numbers to some extent. To effectively combat spotted lanternflies, it is essential to implement a comprehensive pest management strategy that targets different life stages and focuses on the preferred hosts and breeding grounds of these insects.

By understanding their behavior, life cycle, and preferred habitats, homeowners and gardeners can protect their plants and help prevent the spread of this invasive pest.

A close-up image of a spotted lanternfly.

Why Should You Get Rid of Spotted Lanternflies?

Spotted lanternflies may have a striking appearance, but their presence can have a detrimental effect on both the environment and the economy. These invasive pests are known for their voracious appetite and ability to wreak havoc on a wide range of plant species.

These insects use their thin snout to pierce tree bark and suck on the sap of trees, which can weaken and stress the host plants. Fruit trees, hardwood trees, and ornamental trees are particularly vulnerable to their feeding habits, making them susceptible to diseases and other pests. This can result in reduced crop yields, damaged landscapes, and even the death of trees.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, spotted lanternflies pose the greatest threat to these plants and trees:

  • Almonds
  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Hops
  • Maple Trees
  • Nectarines
  • Oak Trees
  • Peaches
  • Pine Trees
  • Plums
  • Poplar Trees
  • Sycamore Trees
  • Walnut Trees
  • Willow Trees

Spotted lanternflies also have a rapid reproductive rate and can quickly multiply. Female lanternflies lay tens of hundreds of eggs in masses on the trunks and branches of trees. As the eggs hatch, the nymphs emerge, further intensifying the infestation. If left unchecked, the population of spotted lanternflies can explode, leading to significant ecological imbalances.

Spotted Lanternfly Life Cycle

Spotted lanternfly season typically occurs in late summer and early fall, when these invasive pests are most active. Spotted lanternflies have a complex life cycle consisting of several stages. They begin as eggs laid in masses on the bark of trees, which can be identified by their grayish-brown color and waxy coating. Once hatched, the nymphs go through four instar stages, during which they molt and grow larger. These instar nymphs have black bodies with white spots and red patches on their wings.

As they continue to develop, the nymphs eventually reach adulthood, shedding their exoskeletons and gaining their characteristic coloration. In the States, adult lanternflies are highly active in July, August, and September, wreaking havoc as they consume plants and trees.

What Do Spotted Lanternflies Look Like?

As adults, spotted lanternflies have a distinct appearance that sets them apart from other similar insects. They are approximately one inch long with wings that are predominantly grayish-brown in color. When spotted lanternflies aren’t moving, they might not look like anything special. But their underwings are striking and unmistakable, adorned with black spots and patches of red that are particularly noticeable when the insect is in flight. The upper wings also display a white band that is easily visible when the wings are fully extended. When at rest, the wings form a tent-like shape over the insect’s body.

In contrast, the nymphs of spotted lanternflies look quite different from their adult counterparts. They go through several instar stages as they develop, gradually growing larger and acquiring more defined markings. Initially, the nymphs are black with white spots, and as they mature, they become increasingly red with white dots. The final instar nymphs exhibit bright red bodies with black stripes and white spots, making them more easily recognizable.

Three spotted lanternflies sitting on an object outside.

How to Prevent a Spotted Lanternfly Infestation

Spotted lanternflies are invasive pests that can harm plants and trees, causing significant damage to agricultural crops and native ecosystems. Preventing a spotted lanternfly infestation is crucial to protect your landscape and the surrounding environment. Here are some effective measures you can take to minimize the risk of a spotted lanternfly infestation:

1. Identify and remove egg masses: One of the most important steps in preventing a spotted lanternfly infestation is to identify and remove their egg masses. Spotted lanternfly egg masses are often covered in a gray, waxy substance that gives them a muddy, hardened appearance. They are about an inch long and resemble a smear or splatter of mud, usually laid in rows or compacted together. The egg masses can contain dozens to hundreds of eggs, making it essential to spot them early and remove them promptly. Regularly inspect your trees — especially fruit trees and ornamental trees — during late summer and early fall when the spotted lanternflies are laying eggs. If you find any gray, muddy-looking egg masses, use a credit card or plastic card to gently scrape them off the surfaces. Make sure to dispose of these egg masses properly by sealing them in a bag or container.

2. Eliminate preferred host trees: Spotted lanternflies have a preference for certain tree species, including black walnut and invasive trees like Tree of Heaven. If possible, remove these host trees from your property to reduce the attractiveness of your landscape to these destructive pests. However, if you have valuable trees that you cannot remove, you can consider using tree banding techniques to trap and monitor spotted lanternflies.

3. Use sticky bands and traps: Applying sticky bands or traps around the trunks of your trees can help in capturing adult lanternflies before they lay eggs. These traps can be made using materials like duct tape or burlap bands coated with a sticky substance. Place these bands around the tree trunks at a height of about 4 feet and regularly check and remove any trapped lanternflies.

4. Report sightings: If you see any spotted lanternflies in your area, it is important to report the sightings to your local agricultural or environmental authority. This can help in tracking the spread of the infestation and implementing appropriate control measures.

By implementing these preventive measures, you can reduce the risk of a spotted lanternfly infestation and protect your landscape from the destructive effects of these invasive pests. Regular monitoring, early detection, and timely action are key to successfully combating this invasive species.

DIY Control Methods for Small Infestations

If you’re dealing with a small infestation of spotted lanternflies, there are several DIY control methods you can use to eliminate these invasive pests. While these methods may not be as effective for large-scale infestations, they can be useful for tackling smaller populations.

Graphic image of a bottle of bug spray

One method is to use vinegar or dish soap mixed with water in a spray bottle. Spotted lanternflies are susceptible to both substances, and spraying them directly can help to kill them without causing significant harm to other wildlife. Simply mix a few tablespoons of soap with water in a spray bottle and apply it to the lanternflies as you see them. This method is safe for the environment and can be used on a variety of surfaces.

Another DIY control method is to manually remove the lanternflies using a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment. Shop vacs are particularly effective for this purpose, as they create a strong suction that can quickly and efficiently remove the pests. Simply vacuum up the lanternflies wherever you see them, and empty the contents of the vacuum bag into a sealed bag or container for disposal.

It’s important to note that while these DIY control methods can be effective for small infestations, they may not provide complete eradication of spotted lanternflies. If you have a larger infestation or if these methods prove ineffective, it’s recommended to seek professional pest control services or consult your local agricultural or environmental authority for further guidance.

Professional Pest Control Is Not Just Recommended — It’s Necessary

When it comes to dealing with pest infestations, enlisting the help of a professional pest control service like Dodson Pest Control is not just recommended, but necessary. While there are various DIY remedies and over-the-counter products available, they aren’t as effective for severe infestations. And with invasive, destructive pests like spotted lanternflies, professional intervention is even more important.

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