Spotted Lantern Fly

July 20, 2023 · 2 minute read
Spotted Lantern Fly

Before its debut in the US, this insect’s home was in China. But was found in the Northeastern part of the country in 2014. Mainly Pennsylvania but without any natural enemies to keep populations down it has since hitchhiked into Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia. It will take advantage of almost any form of transport laying its egg rows on just about any surface. And because of the increasingly mild winters, they are hatching earlier.

Even though this pest will feed on over 100 different plant species, it does have its favorites including Ailanthus and grapevines. And the honeydew it secretes promotes mold and fungi growth.

Identification is key to helping eradicate the pest. Beginning in the spring and continuing into early summer nymphs emerge from their eggs. The nymph stage consists of four stages, called instars. The nymphs grow from 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch by the fourth instar and will change in appearance.

At first, the nymphs are soft and white. They quickly harden and change coloration. Early-stage nymphs are black with bright white spots. At this stage, they begin climbing trees or shrubs. Nymphs prefer tender plants because of their soft mouths and will climb to reach new softer growth. When they find the plant material they want, nymphs will pierce the plant and suck its juices.

Although nymphs can’t fly, they can jump quite far. Because it’s a planthopper, spotted lanternflies have very strong hind legs. When it reaches the 4th stage or instar the nymph changes its appearance again. Noticeably larger, the nymph is now red and black with white spots.

Adults do have the ability to fly, although not very far. When adults are at rest they are a dull tan-gray color with black spots. But when they take flight, their wings unfold into brilliant patterns of red black, and white.

The adult stage is where the real damage is. Stronger mouths enable it to penetrate and drill through the bark of mature trees. During feeding, trees can appear to be weeping sap. After feeding, they secrete honeydew which over time can promote the sooty mold fungi found on trees.

So what to do if you see Spotted Lantern Fly?

Easy, call your local agricultural extension. Try and have a few pictures.

Spotted Lanternfly in Virginia | Virginia Cooperative Extension | Virginia Tech