The next generation of crop-destroying spotted lanternflies has taken hold in New Jersey, with the colorful and eye-catching bugs now found nearly everywhere in the state. While the spotted lanternfly doesn’t harm animals or humans, it can cause harm to the plants on which it feeds.
Considered a plant hopper because they can only fly a few feet at a time, spotted lanternflies are adept at attaching themselves to -- or laying their eggs on -- everything from cars to backpacks, camping equipment to gardening tools, building materials to children's playthings. Once attached, they hitchhike along to different locations, increasing their population along the way.
These pests are known to feed off of 70 different plant species, such as wood trees, vegetables, and fruit trees. In addition to the damage they cause by sucking sap from the leaves and stems of the plants, spotted lanternflies excrete honeydew, a sticky substance that spreads over anything underneath the attacked plant or tree. Those surfaces will eventually be covered in a black sooty mold, further damaging the plant or tree, which can attract other insects such as bees and the honeydew can also cause mold to grow.
Quick Facts about the Spotted Lanternfly
(from PennState Extension: Spotted Lanternfly Management Guide)
- SLF is an invasive pest that feeds on a large variety of plant species, including those in the agricultural, timber, and ornamental industries, and backyard plants.
- SLF is currently under quarantine in 34 counties in Pennsylvania, in addition to several other states.
- SLF does not bite or sting.
- SLF is a plant stressor that, in combination with other stressors (e.g., other insects, diseases, weather), can cause significant damage to its host. SLF alone may not kill the tree. Some plants are at more risk than others (e.g., grapevines, maple, black walnut). Death has only been noted in tree saplings, tree-of-heaven, and grapevines.
- Slow the spread of SLF by checking your car and any outdoor equipment (outdoor furniture, mowers, firewood, etc.) when going in and out of the quarantine zone.
- Manage SLF on your property by promoting plant health, scraping eggs, using traps, and using chemical control when appropriate. Use our management decision guide to determine which actions are best to take.
Where Did the SLF Come From?
The spotted lanternfly is native to China, India, and Vietnam and was introduced to the Eastern United States in September 2014. Since then, the insect has spread from Pennsylvania to New Jersey and far beyond, and is still on the move.
Within their native areas, predators keep these pests under control. However, in the US there is a lack of natural predators, as well as an abundance of preferred host plants, allowing their populations to reach unprecedented levels.
How Can I Control SLF Populations?
From November through March, check trees; scrape and destroy egg masses.
Once the insects hatch, from April to June, the best options are squishing them or using chemical sprays. Always consult a professional tree expert for advice before taking any steps to spray or have a tree injected.
Reporting sightings of spotted lanternflies can help with managing the pest. Sightings of the insect are recorded in a database and assessed to see if treatment is needed in certain areas. Certain counties in New Jersey have a high number of spotted lanternflies, however, these pests are now found throughout the state.
In fact, spotted lanternflies are so pervasive in New Jersey that residents no longer need to report seeing them.