Spotted Lanternflies: What are They and Why Should We Care?

By: Elizabeth Sirianni

The spotted lanternfly is an invasive pest native to China, India, and Vietnam. However, they have begun to make the Lehigh Valley their new home – here’s why we should be concerned:

This insect annihilates our local crops, including grapes, apples, trees, and stone fruits; this puts the livelihoods of farmers in danger and lessens our township’s food supply. Also, if they continue to destroy trees, oxygen levels will begin to decrease and there will be a shortage of habitats for birds and squirrels. Secondly, the economy will suffer as a result of the food shortage, meaning that fruits and nuts will become more and more expensive as this infestation continues.

In order to identify the pest, it is essential to know the details of their physical appearance. Fully grown lanternflies are an inch long in height and half an inch wide, and their wings are grey with black spots. The tips of the wings are black with a grey outline, and the top of the wings are a bright red. On the other hand, undeveloped lanternflies are black with white spots, and may or may not have red wings depending on how old they are. If you see a lanternfly walking around on the ground, try to kill it by stomping on it or swatting it with something. You do not have to worry about it harming you as they do not bite or sting. Once you have killed it, try and preserve it in a plastic bag or tupperware container so you can take it to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture for inspection.

During the fall season, these pests commonly group around willow trees to lay their eggs on the trunks, branches, and limb bases. If you see a tree with any eggs on it, scrape them off, double bag them, and throw it away – this will prevent further spread of the insect. In a case where you cannot scrape the eggs off, you can leave them on the tree and spray them with alcohol or hand sanitizer to prevent them from ever hatching. If you cannot tell if a tree has served as a host for these eggs, check to see if it had grey or black trails along its trunks. If it does have trails on the trunks, that means that the lanternflies have left their sap on the tree. This sap will attract other bugs such as ants and wasps, and your best bet is to just saw the branches off since the sap has already sunken into the branch. Later in the fall, lanternflies will leave their eggs on outdoor furniture, vehicles, and anything made out of stone, so be sure to keep an eye out to make sure you do not get into contact with any eggs.

To summarize, be sure to know the warning signs of an infestation and make sure to destroy the pests whenever possible so we can hopefully eliminate their species for good.