Look Out for Spotted Lanternfly
Spotted lanternfly (SLF) is an invasive insect, related to plant hoppers, that was first discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014. Since then, it has spread throughout much of the east coast and New England. This past year, SLF was found in Switzerland County in southeast Indiana.
The spotted lanternfly uses its piercing-sucking mouthpart to feed on sap from over 70 different plant species. It has a strong preference for economically important plants including grapevines, maple trees, black walnut, birch, willow, and other trees. The feeding damage significantly stresses the plants which can lead to decrease health and potentially death.
As SLF feeds, the insect excretes honeydew (a sugary substance) which can attract bees, wasps, and other insects. The honeydew also builds up and promotes the growth for sooty mold (fungi), which can cover the plan, forest understories, patio furniture, cars, and anything else found below SLF feeding.
The picture below shows the different parts of the life cycle of SLF. The egg masses (A) look like dried mud, and can be found on tree bark, landscape rocks, and other objects, including automobiles. The egg masses are present from October through June. The eggs hatch in May through June, and the nymphs (young stage) appears as a small, black, weevil-looking insects with lots of white spots (B). It will go through 3 instars (molts), getting larger (up to 1/4 inch). After it’s 4th molt in July through September, the nymph will develop bright re coloration (C) and reach about 1/2 inch in length. Adults (D) will begin to appear from July through September, they will have grayish wings with black spots, and are about 1inch long. They will begin laying eggs in September.
Spotted lanternfly attacks many trees and ornamental plants. One of their favorite foods is Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), which is an invasive species of tree that we’d like to get rid of anyway. Unfortunately, their feeding won’t kill this invasive tree. Their feeding can damages and even kill grape vines, mainly because of the large numbers of insects that will gather on the vines and suck the sap.
Entomologists are still trying to determine the most effective and safest ways to kill these insects. There are some products that will work against them, especially their small, non-flying nymphal stages, and especially on ornamental plants. However, using these products on grapes and other edible crops may be problematic. I’ll be following research and recommendations as they become available.
If you find on of these insects, we need to know about it! You can call me to come out and look at them, or you can report them yourself. Anyone who spots signs of the spotted lanternfly should contact the Indiana Division of Entomology and Plant Pathology (DEPP) by calling 866-NO EXOTIC (866-663-9684) or end an email (with a photo of the insect if possible) to DEPP@dnr.IN.gov.
Below is a picture showing Spotted Lanternfly and several species of non-harmful insects. If you see these look-alikes, please don’t call.
For more information on Spotted Lanternfly, please check out this website from Penn State: https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly
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