Insects are the most diverse group of animals; they include more than a million described species and represent more than half of all known life. Humans regard certain insects as pests, and attempt to control them using insecticides, and a host of other techniques. Some insects damage crops by feeding on sap, leaves, fruits, or wood while some are parasitic and may vector disease. Some insects are considered ecologically beneficial as predators and a few provide direct economic benefit.
Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) was first found in the United States in Pennsylvania in 2014. It is a planthopper native to China and southeastern Asia. In addition to the United States, SLF is present in China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Within the United States, SLF has been found in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. This invasive insect feeds primarily on Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), but has many other host plants, including grape, hop, apple, stone fruit, maple, poplar, walnut, and willow. There are many hosts as the immature stages (nymphs) develop, but as adults, they prefer to feed on and lay eggs on Tree of Heaven. Adults and nymphs will feed on phloem tissues of young stems and bark tissues with their piercing and sucking mouthparts and excrete large amounts of honeydew, leading to the accumulation of sooty mold. SLF may lay egg masses on materials/items that can be moved by people long distances as is the case with Gypsy Moth. If this pest spreads, the grape, orchard, and logging industries will be impacted.
SLF goes through four nymphal instars before becoming adults. The first three nymphal instars are black with white spots, while the fourth one has red with the white spots. The adults will feed for several weeks and in late summer/early fall lay groups of eggs in rows (egg masses containing 30-50 eggs) covered by waxy deposits on trees and objects in the area. SLF overwinters as eggs and hatch in the spring. The adults are about one inch long and a half inch wide with a striking and unusual color arrangement, especially when their wings are spread. Their forewings are light brown with black spots at the front and a speckled band at the rear. Their hind wings are scarlet with black spots at the front and white and black bars at the rear. Their abdomen is yellow with black bars. They will often feed in large groups, especially as adults and 4th instar nymphs. They are easier to see at night or dusk as they will be found throughout the host plant while during the day, they are more commonly near the base of the plant.
While eradication and state quarantine efforts are underway in the infested areas of the United States, the goal of eradication may not succeed as these efforts were delayed in their start. Eradication efforts largely consist of host (Tree of Heaven) removal and chemical control using trap trees to kill large numbers of SLF. There are links to more information about Spotted Lanternfly at the following web locations:
Virginia Extension – Virginia Tech:
New Jersey Department of Agriculture:
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture:
Pennsylvania Extension – Penn State:
New York State – Integrated Pest Management: