Heard of the Spotted Lanternfly yet? If You Live in PA, You Will

As if we haven’t had enough to worry about in the last few years, with COVID, toilet paper shortages, and crazy weather patterns, now a new invasive insect is wreaking havoc on trees all over Pennsylvania. The Spotted Lanternfly is an economically damaging insect first discovered in the U.S. in 2014 in Berks County and has since spread to 34 counties, including Westmoreland. 

So, what is this annoying creature? If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s only a matter of time. And what do I, as a business or homeowner living or working in the Latrobe area, need to know about it? We have your answers. We’ll help you identify, recognize and educate you on what to do when and if you spot this menace.

What Is The Spotted Lanternfly?

This invasive insect is native to Southeastern Asia. It feeds on the sap of maple trees, black walnut, birch, willow, grapevines, and other important trees. It’s actually not a fly or a moth, even though it looks like both, but a planthopper that moves from plant to plant. It is quite a beautiful species if you are able to spot it with its wings open. In this occurrence, it looks like a moth and has grey wings with black spots. Half the wings are red with black spots, and its wingspan is approximately two inches.

You will see an S at rest with black-spotted tan wings folded over its back. Both male and female SLF have yellow abdomens with black stripes. They are approximately one inch long and a half-inch wide. Both male and female insects have piercing-sucking mouthparts that allow them to feed in the sap of your beloved trees.

The young nymphs are 1/4 an inch long with black and white stripes and are often mistaken for ticks. Both adults and nymphs can be quite destructive.

Spotted Lanternfly’s Life Cycle

Mating takes place in late August, and egg-laying takes place in September through the first freeze. Females lay one or two egg masses containing 30 – 60 eggs laid out in rows and will lay their eggs anywhere, including rocks, trees, sides of houses, even your lawn furniture. She covers her eggs with a creamy-white substance and then the eggs hatch during the first signs of spring when these little terrors begin to mobilize.

Spotted Lanternfly Behavior

Spotted Lanternflies are athletic little creatures. They can use their powerful hind legs to jump and fly short distances. They are able to walk, jump or fly up to four miles before flying into the windows of vehicles, hopping on the back of trucks, resting on the side of firewood, and/or hitchhiking on the outside of motor homes and recreational vehicles. These unwanted pests know how to get around and will stop at nothing to do so.

Why Are These Exotic Looking Creatures So Harmful?

Lanternflies move in swarms like hungry locusts. When they move, they swarm the air, making it unbearable to be outside. They can cover a tree from top to bottom and cause considerable damage.  Both the nymphs and adult lanternflies can cause damage to your trees when feeding on the sap, significantly stressing the plants, leading to decreased health and potentially death. 

As the Spotted Lanternfly feeds on the plant’s sap, they excrete a sugary substance called honeydew to attract bees, wasps, and other insects. The honeydew builds up and promotes the growth of fungi that covers the plant and everything around it, including your patio furniture, car, and plants around it. According to a study done by Penn State, this invasive insect costs the Keystone State about $50 million and 500 jobs each year. Economists in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences estimated the financial impact on industries most susceptible to the Spotted Lanternfly, including nurseries, vineyards, Christmas tree growers, and hardwood producers.

So, What Can a Home Or Business Owner in Latrobe, PA Do?

Mechanical Control
Adult lanternflies lay their eggs in the fall in mud coverings, which can contain anywhere from 30-50 eggs. From early fall to late spring, be on the lookout for these egg casings. You can scrape off the eggs with any rigid tool such as a putty knife or credit card. Once scraped off, place them in rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. 

Tree Banding
The nymphs are active from April through early November. Using a sticky band around the tree can help control Spotted Lanterflies as they climb up the tree to feed. These traps should be replaced every one or two weeks. 

Prevention and Control With Tree of Heaven
Spotted Lanternflies are attracted to the tree of heaven, a native Chinese plant they feed on before laying eggs. Because of this, many trees of heaven infestations require multiple treatments and different types of applications, including but not limited to foliar sprays, basal bark sprays, and stump treatments. This can be difficult and time-consuming and is best left up to the professionals. When dealing with a tree of heaven, it is best to contact your local tree and shrub care company. 

Several insecticides appear to be effective against SLF. However, because many egg masses are hidden in protected areas, it can pose challenges and difficulties. It is best to start using an effective insecticide around mid-July. Again, it is best to leave this up to the professionals who understand trees, insects, and how this new invasive creature behaves. It is also important to never move firewood as it can harbor SLF’s and other damaging insects. Remember to report all lanternfly sightings to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture at 1-888-422-3359.

Protect Your Latrobe Ornamentals With Tree and Shrub Care by the Professionals at LawnRx

At LawnRx, our tree & shrub experts are licensed by the PA Department of Agriculture and recognize the different trees native to our area and the different pests and diseases our beloved plants can endure. We offer a tree and shrub care program that gives your plants the fertilization they need to stay healthy and the disease and insect control they need to remain protected. Our experts can make recommendations regarding the Spotted Lantern Fly and any concerns you may have. Consult with one of our tree and shrub experts today. Contact us online or give us a call at 724-539-1003.

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