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Spotted Lanternfly Damage... And What to Do About It

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In just seven years, the spotted lanternfly has spread from a small section of Pennsylvania to nine U.S. states. But would you recognize one if you saw it? What if it started damaging your home?

Spotted lanternfly damage is affecting agricultural businesses and homes alike as these bugs terrorize the Northeast United States. If you haven't heard about lanternflies yet, or are aware of the devastation this pretty little monster can wreak on plant life, it's time to educate yourself on this invasive pest. Keep reading to learn more. 

What Is the Spotted Lanternfly?

The spotted lanternfly is a fairly recent invasive insect species to the US. This bug is native to China, India, and Vietnam but came to the US in 2014. An egg sack was probably carried over on a shipping container, and these multi-legged menaces have been terrorizing US trees and crops and expanding their destructive rampage across the states since their arrival.

The Spotted Lanternfly was first documented in Pennsylvania, but it can now it can also be found in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Connecticut, and even Virginia. Spotted lanternflies were able to spread so quickly because they will lay their eggs on almost any surface. It's very easy for people to bring lanternfly egg sacks to new locations on their cars without even realizing it.

What Is Spotted Lanternfly Damage?

All life stages of spotted lanternflies present a risk of damage to plants and crops. They pierce plant tissue with their mouths and drain them of vital fluids. The younger stages tend to damage tender plant life, while adults are able to pierce through the bark of trees during feeding.

In the US, spotted lanternflies pose a threat to economically important plant life including grapevines,  blueberry bushes and apple, peach, maple, walnut, and pine trees. Many farmers have resorted to extreme methods to protect their crops against lanternflies, some of which can be damaging to pollinator bugs as well as expensive for businesses.

Even worse than the damage they do while feasting on plants is the damage they do when defecating. Lanternfly “honeydew” is a sticky substance that they secrete after eating. This goo invites other pest insects to the same tree and develops a fungus that can damage its root system.

 

How Do I Identify Spotted Lanternflies?

It's clear that the lanternflies need to be stopped. But if you don't know what they look like how can you stop them? It's important that everyone in the lanternfly's current area be able to identify them at all life stages. While the distinctive spotted red and white wings of the adult lanternflies are quite distinctive, their previous stages of development aren’t as easily recognized.

It's especially important to respect the spotted lanternfly quarantine. This means that you should be inspecting your car for egg masses so that you don't bring them into new territories.

Here's a helpful guide.

SLF-LifecyclePost (002)-1

Eggs

Spotted lanternfly egg masses start appearing in the fall season. Lanternflies will lay their eggs on any hard surface - from cars to playground sets, trees, and patio furniture. They're very hard to spot because of their coloring, and because a lot of other things look like them. 

When dry, the egg masses look like cracked mud packed onto a surface. They're about one square inch all the way around. Each mass contains up to sixty lanternflies inside. That's a lot fewer lanternflies if you can identify a mass and destroy it.

Nymphs

Lanternfly nymphs come in two stages. They start hatching in the spring, and their first stage is quite small. They look like little black beetles with white polka dot spots. They are wingless and grow to be about a quarter of an inch long.

In the midsummer, those early nymphs will go through a molting process and start to show their second stage of nymph-hood. These so-called "red-stage nymphs" are strong enough to start breaking through the bark of trees and causing damage.

The red-stage nymphs are slightly bigger averaging at about three-quarters of an inch long. They maintain their white spots but develop a striking, bright red body and black markings like stripes. They'd be quite pretty to look at if they were such a menace.

Adults

Also around midsummer, the adult lanternflies start appearing and they'll last until it starts to frost in the fall. 

The adults are about an inch long and half an inch wide. They have a pink, tan, or brownish outer wing covered with little black spots (hence the spotted name). They look a little bit like a mix between a moth and a cicada and have quite papery wings.

The greatest indicator that you're looking at a spotted lanternfly is the bright red underwing. You won't see it unless they get disturbed and fly or jump (like a grasshopper) but then it's impossible to mistake that unique bright red color.

Spotted Lanternfly Control

It's up to all of us to do our part to stop the spread of the spotted lanternfly.

As mentioned before, check your car before any road trips for egg masses, especially in the Fall. Remove them and then put them in a bag filled with alcohol to be sure that all the eggs are killed. Viking offers free spotted lanternfly egg scrapers.

If you see any stage of nymphs or adult lanternflies, squash them with your foot! They're quite fragile and there's no harm in killing them one by one.

 

Lanternfly Infestation

If you start seeing more and more lanternflies in your backyard and discovering that sticky honeydew on your trees, you may have a full infestation.

Don't let lanternflies continue to breed in your yard and cause damage to your valued trees and plans. Call an exterminator to take care of the problem once and for all.

We can all do our part to stop the invasion of spotted lanternflies and put an end to spotted lanternfly damage. Check your car for egg masses, kill them on sight, and call an exterminator to deal with larger infestations.

Have you noticed nymphs in your yard? Check out our service for spotted lanternfly egg removal! 

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