Over the past few months, you’ve surely heard the spotted lanternfly mentioned in the news. What is this pest and should you be concerned?! We’re answering all your spotted lanternfly questions!
What is a Spotted Lanternfly?
First things first, what even IS a spotted lanternfly?! Well, to start with the basics, the spotted lanternfly, also known by the scientific name Lycorma delicatula, is an invasive pest species originating in Asia, first appearing here in the United States in Pennsylvania in 2014. The spotted lanternfly causes serious damage to native species, damages trees, and has the potential to have negative impacts on both natural ecosystems and the economy because of the threats posed to various United States industries.
How to Identify a Spotted Lanternfly
It is around 1” long and ½” wide at rest. Its forewing is gray with black spots, and the wing tips have black blocks outlined in gray. A spotted lanternfly’s hind wings have contrasting patches of red and black with white bands, while the legs and head are both black. The abdomen area is yellow with broad black bands, and spotted lanternflies are strong jumpers.
Where Do Spotted Lanternflies Live?
Spotted lanternfly infestations have spread to many places around the world, including New York! While this planthopper is indigenous to parts of China, India, and Vietnam, it’s now been “spotted” in Japan, South Korea, and a variety of areas in the United States. Currently, the spotted lanternfly has been recorded in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Virginia, Indiana, and Ohio.
In New York specifically, spotted lanternflies have been found in Staten Island, Port Jervis, Sloatsburg, Orangeburg, and Ithaca.
To be more specific about where spotted lanternflies live in these locations, they often inhabit a variety of host plants, such as fruit trees, grape vines, and hardwoods, which we’ll cover more in depth below.
What Do Spotted Lanternflies Eat?
Spotted lanternfly nymphs and adults feed on over 70 different plants, however their favorite is tree of heaven, a deciduous plant often found along roadways and disturbed forest areas. It reproduces quickly and much like the spotted lanternfly, is an invasive species. Tree of heaven aggressively overtakes and can even kill native plants in its vicinity. When native plants are disrupted or killed, the balance of the native ecosystem and biodiversity are impacted, which can lead to extinctions of native plants and animals. Tree of heaven also commonly harbors spotted lanternflies and other invasive insect species.
In addition to tree of heaven, spotted lanternflies also feed on a variety of other plants, including grapevine, maple, walnut, and fruit trees, among others, which is one reason why this insect can be detrimental; their diet alone can impact New York’s forests in addition to industries such as agriculture and tourism.
Are Spotted Lanternflies Dangerous?
While spotted lanternflies aren’t dangerous in the sense that they’re known to bite humans, they have the potential to significantly impact the agriculture, recreation, tourism and forestry industries in the United States, as well as native plants, and as a result, the natural ecosystem.
The spotted lanternfly can also cause significant damage to trees and agricultural crops, such as grapes, for example, and leave those crops vulnerable to disease and attack from other insects and reducing yield.
Signs of Spotted Lanternfly Damage
- Plants that are oozing or weeping
- Plants with a fermented odor
- Buildup of honeydew, a sticky fluid, on plants and on the ground underneath plants
- Sooty mold on infested plants
What To Do If You See a Spotted Lanternfly
Because the spotted lanternfly poses such serious threats to a variety of New York industries, identification and control are critical. If you believe you’ve come across a spotted lanternfly in New York, the state recommends taking the following steps:
- Take photos of the insect, egg masses, and/or signs of infestation, including an object such as a coin in the photo for scale.
- Email those photos to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Note the location, including the address, intersecting roads, landmarks, or GPS coordinates
For more information on the spotted lanternfly in New York, visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/113303.html