Technical Papers

Spotted Lanternfly: An Invasive Species

Wednesday, November 4th, 2020 by Bill Cowley

Spotted Lanternfly: An Invasive Species - Image 1

The Spotted lanternfly is an invasive insect that has spread throughout Pennsylvania since they were originally discovered in Berks County, PA in 2014. They have also spread to New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. 

The planthopper feeds on important agricultural commodities, including grapevines, fruit trees, nursery plants, and hardwood timber — as well as plants in natural habitats, parks, and backyards. Economists warn that the insect, if not contained, could drain Pennsylvania’s economy of at least $324 million annually and cause the loss of about 2,800 jobs.

According to the Pennslyvania Department of Agriculture, the Spotted Lanternfly causes serious damage in trees, such as oozing sap, wilting, leaf curling, and tree dieback. In addition to tree damage, when spotted lanternflies feed, they excrete a sugary substance, called honeydew, which encourages the growth of black sooty mold. This mold is harmless to people, however, it causes damage to plants. In counties infested and quarantined for Spotted Lanternfly, residents report hundreds of these bad bugs that affect their quality of life and ability to enjoy the outdoors during the spring and summer months. Spotted Lanternflies will cover trees, swarm in the air, and their honeydew can coat decks and play equipment.

The Spotted Lanternfly adult is approximately 1" long and 1/2" wide at rest. The forewing is grey with black spots and the wings tips are reticulated black blocks outlined in grey. The hind wings have contrasting patches of red and black with a white band. The legs and head are black; the abdomen is yellow with broad black bands. Immature stages are black with white spots and develop red patches as they grow. 

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture is currently battling the population of this highly invasive insect.