You’ve probably heard a lot about the Spotted Lanternfly, but while humans have been concerning themselves with other worries, these destructive little suckers have been preparing for another year of attacking our state’s vineyards.
We’re here to issue a quick explainer on the pest and to encourage you to smush every one you encounter.
What is a Spotted Lanternfly?
The Spotted Lanternfly is an invasive species from Asia that is decimating Pennsylvania’s crops, especially grapevines. For such destructive insects, they are surprisingly beautiful, boasting a yellow abdomen, black spots, patches of red, and a white band. The upside is that their unique appearance makes them easy to identify, even for non-bug experts.
What’s so bad about them?
Spotted Lanternflies feed on the sap of plants, adhering to vines, trunks, and branches, and draining them of essential liquid and nutrients. When they eat, they excrete a sugary substance called honeydew that encourages the growth of black sooty mold. These pests have been known to attack over plant 70 species, but they particularly love grapes, apples, and hop plants. The threat to our delicious adult beverages — and the small businesses that produce them — is real and growing. A study out of Penn State argued that decimation caused by Lanterflies could cost the Commonwealth economy $324 million every year.
Where are they found?
Last year, this colorful menace was now been spotted in 26 Pennsylvania counties, with most of them concentrated in the southeastern part of the state and the Lehigh Valley. They moved west and started to impact vineyards in central PA. Swarms of Spotted Lanternflies have also been recorded in New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, and there have been sightings in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. They do not stick to rural areas, popping up all over Philadelphia in 2020 and 2019.
What can I do to help?
In the spring, Spotted Lanternflies lay eggs in a tacky mass that adheres to outdoor benches, gutters, trees, rocks, or even cars. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, it looks a bit like dried gum. While it’s too late for this year, keep this information in mind for 2022. When you see one of these egg sacks, dislodge it using a knife or credit card, and smoosh until you hear a pop. Here’s information on the correct use of glue traps from Penn State Extension. This gruesome task is essential because each mass contains 30-50 eggs, aka dozens of future grapevine killers.
Once the insects hatch, they go through several nymph phases, growing larger and more colorful at each stage, before sprouting wings and taking to the air. One way to slay the nymphs is with homemade tree traps; click here for a how-to guide on banding.
When you see a Lanternfly — whether it’s immature or fully grown — kill it. Then inform the PA Department of Agriculture of your sighting by either reporting it online or by calling 1-888-4BADFLY. This is especially important if you fall outside the state’s Spotted Lanternfly Quarantine Zone; click here for the map.
If you want to learn more about the Spotted Lanternfly — and why controlling this pest is so important — check out these additional resources:
Wired.com: This Voracious, Unstoppable Bug Is Killing Off Vineyards
Penn State Extention: Spotted Lanternfly Management in Vineyards
Philadelphia Inquirer: Spotted lanternfly killing: the pandemic hobby we all need right now