The Spotted Lanternfly: New Orchard Superpest?

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Adult Spotted Lanternfly Photo credit: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

Have you heard about the Spotted Lanternfly yet? If you haven’t, you’ll probably hear about them a lot more in the near future! First seen in Southeastern PA in 2014, this pest insect’s population has exploded and since moved into New York, Delaware, and Virginia. The Spotted Lanternfly is a threat to many orchard crops and the USDA is now pouring $17.5 million of dollars into fighting this new pest in Pennsylvania!

Photo credit: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), is native to Vietnam, China, and India, but has become an aggressive invasive species in both South Korea and Pennsylvania, the only other two places it has been found so far. This pest has a favorite host, the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), an invasive, fast-growing tree from China which may have provided initial habitat for this pesky bug in Pennsylvania and is a common weed tree in Philadelphia.

The Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima. Photo via public Domain

The Spotted Lanternfly also feeds on up to 70 other plants including grapes, apples, peaches, plums, apricots, and hops. It is a large planthopper, about 1 inch long, with distinctive spots and red hind wings. Like other leafhoppers, the lanternfly feeds on plant sap, which damages the plant. The Spotted Lanternfly also secretes large amounts of honeydew, which leads to growth of sooty mold. Sooty mold can severely damage the host plant and is especially damaging to fruit crops!

 

Spotted Lanternfly egg mass. Photo credit: Kenneth R. Law, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

 

Female lanternflies will lay their eggs on almost any surface available including trees, cars, lumber and outdoor furniture, and people are very worried about this bug’s potential for hitchhiking and long distance travel. The adult female will often drop down to the nearest available surface and lay 30-50 eggs. Combine that mobility with the fact that 44 states already have the host plant Tree of Heaven- which tends to grow in disturbed and lesser maintained areas like around parking lots and along highways and railways- and you can see why farmers, gardeners, orchardists, and authorities are concerned about the potential for a new superpest!

         

(Lanternfly nymphs. Photo Credit: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org)

If Spotted Lanternfly is identified in your area, please join the team of people addressing it!  Those in affected areas need to be aware of quarantine orders and rules for compliance. Penn State Extension has developed a list of recommended management strategies that you can engage in, which involves closely inspecting any outdoor objects that will move from place to place, managing the population of host Tree of Heaven, leaving trap trees, and the use of pesticides according to their label. It is important to keep in mind that the sap of Tree of Heaven can cause headaches, nausea, and heart problems, and to protect oneself when handling it. Please visit the Penn State Extension website for procedures and checklists regarding yard waste and the movement of outdoor items including vehicles.

We’re sorry that this isn’t the best news to be bringing you, but we hope that you can take some time to educate yourself about this alarming new pest and join the team of informed folks trying to deal with the issue!

What to do if you see the Spotted Lanternfly:

If you see egg masses, scrape them off, double bag them and throw them away. You can also place the eggs into alcohol or hand sanitizer to kill them. Please report all destroyed egg masses to Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture.

Collect a specimen: Specimens of any life stage can be turned in to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Entomology lab for verification. Submit samples with the Entomology Program Sample Submission Form.

Take a picture: A photograph of any life stage (including egg masses) can be submitted to Badbug@pa.gov.

Report a sighting: If you can’t take a specimen or photograph, call the Automated Invasive Species Report Line at 1-866-253-7189 and leave a message detailing your sighting and contact information.

Links for more info:

https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly-on-grapes-and-tree-fruit

https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly-tips-for-handling-yard-waste-in-quarantined-areas

http://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Plants_Land_Water/PlantIndustry/Entomology/spotted_lanternfly/Documents/SLF%20Checklist%2011-12-2014.pdf

http://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Plants_Land_Water/PlantIndustry/Entomology/spotted_lanternfly/Pages/default.aspx

https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/420/420-322/420-322.html

This blog post prepared by POP Orchard Director Michael Muehlbauer. 

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