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Nature News: Spotted Lanternfly

Adult Spotted Lanternfly with wings spread. Image by NJ Department of Agriculture.

As a nature lover, you might have seen warnings about a new invasive pest coming into Delaware. You might have seen the headlines and kept the clip of the article to look over later, but you haven’t read it yet. That time is now. This is an issue that has a lot of negatives, if we as residents of the state don’t take the time to learn about and deal with the issue.

PEST ALERT: Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula)

Origin: The spotted lanternfly is an invasive pest that is naturally found China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam. NOW IN THE USA. The insect was detected in Pennsylvania in September 2014. This was the first detection in the United States.

Description: Adult spotted lanternflies are approximately 1 inch long and 1/2 inch wide. They have large and visually striking wings. Their fore-wings are light brown with black spots at the front and a speckled band at the rear. Their hing wings are scarlet with black spots at the font and white and black bars at the rear. Their abdomen is yellow with black bars. Nymphs in their early stages of development appear black with white spots and turn to a red phase before becoming adults. Egg masses are yellowish-brown in color, covered with a gray, waxy coating prior to hatching.

Life Cycle: The spotted lanternfly lays its eggs on smooth host plant surfaces and on non-host material, such as bricks, stones, and dead plants. Eggs hatch in the spring and early summer, and nymphs begin feeding on a wide range of host plants by sucking sap from young stems and leaves. Adults appear in late July and tend to focus their feeding on tree of heaven (A. altissima) and grapevine (Vitis vinifera). As the adults feed, they excrete sticky, sugar-rich fluid similar to honeydew. The fluid can build up on plant and on the ground underneath infested plants, causing sooty mold to form.

Where to look: Spotted lanterfly adults and nymphs frequently gather in large numbers on host plants. They are easiest to spot at dusk or at night as they migrate up and down the trunk of the plant. During the day, they tend to cluster near the base of the plant if there is adequate cover or in the canopy making them more difficult to see. Egg masses can be found on smooth surfaces on the trunks of host plants and on other smooth surfaces, including brick, stone, and dead plants.

The spotted lanternflies are invasive and can spread rapidly when introduced to new areas. White the insect can walk, jump, or fly short distances, its long-distance spread is facilitated by people who move infested material or items containing egg masses.

These are the 4 nymph stages of the spotted lanternfly. Image by ResearchGate

What does this mean for Delaware?

Recently, the Newark Post published an article about the insect in our state. The article is as it was at the time of print, and written by Joshua Shannon.

Newark included in quarantine as state battles invasive insect

Residents, businesses required to check items for spotted lanternfly before transporting

State officials are asking residents of Newark and other parts of northern New Castle County to stay vigilant in the fight against the invasive spotted lanternfly, which is a growing threat to agriculture in Delaware.

“The impact of this pest to Delaware is large, with $8 billion of Delaware’s economic activity related to agriculture,” Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse said. “When you look at our orchards and vineyards, nursery and landscaping industry, and forestland and timber sales, you are looking at more than $1.9 billion alone. Delaware has a lot to lose if we do not gain control over the spotted lanternfly.”

On Friday, Scuse announced a quarantine affecting zip codes 19702, 19703, 19707, 19711, 19801, 19802, 19803, 19805, 19807, 19808, and 19810.

Residents and businesses in those areas are now required to check for the insects and egg masses before transporting plant materials, construction materials, firewood and other outdoor items the insects could attach themselves to, such as tarps, snowmobiles, outdoor furniture, garden tools, barbecue grills, bicycles, etc.

“The spotted lanternfly is a notorious hitchhiker,” Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Stacey Hofmann said.

Vehicles are also a concern. Hoffman encourages everyone who lives in the quarantine area to check his or her vehicle for laternfly egg masses – which have a gray, mud-like covering – before each trip.

“The female spotted lanternfly lays egg masses of 30 to 50 eggs wherever it chooses, especially on flat surfaces,” Hofmann said. “All other life stages of this insect from nymphs to adults can fly, hop, or drop onto a vehicle – meaning that this pest can easily be transported to new areas where it can create another infestation.”

Hoffman recommended residents scrape egg masses into a bag filled with alcohol or alcohol-based hand sanitizer and crush the eggs in order to kill them.

The eggs will begin to hatch in April, and any live lanternflies found this spring should be killed as well.

For businesses, the requirements are more stringent. Any business or government agency that plans to move items covered under the quarantine are required to contact the Department of Agriculture to obtain a permit and be trained on proper procedures for identifying and removing the lanternfly. Intentional movement of the insects could result in civil penalties.

“We understand this quarantine will impact businesses and homeowners; however, it is required if we have any chance to control this non-native, destructive pest. With the hatching of egg masses and the presence of adult lanternflies, the population has grown and requires treatment and control efforts,” Scuse said.

Native to China, Vietnam and India, the spotted lanternfly first came to the United States in a shipment of landscaping stones that arrived in Pennsylvania in 2014, Hoffman said. Since then, they have been found in numerous locations in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

The first Delaware sighting came in Wilmington in 2017, and state officials have since found the insects in all of the zip codes included in the quarantine.

An adult spotted lanternfly is 1 inch long and a half-inch wide. The forewings are grey with black spots, and the hind wings are red with black spots. The head and legs are black, and the abdomen is yellow with broad black bands. Immature stages are small, round, and black with white spots, and develop red patches as they grow.

The spotted lanternfly feeds through a tree’s bark using a piercing-sucking mouthpart tapped into the plant like a straw. When it feeds, it excretes a sugary water called honeydew on and around it’s feeding site. This encourages the growth of black sooty mold, which is not harmful to humans, but can damage plants and make outside recreation areas unusable. This sap will attract other insects to feed, notably wasps and ants.

Branch dieback, wilting and plant death is a common symptom of heavy spotted lanternfly feedings.

At risk are crops such as apples, plums, cherries, hops, grapes, peaches, nectarines, apricots and almonds. Trees including pine, oak, walnut, poplar, willow, maple and sycamore can also be affected.

For more information, visit or call the dedicated spotted lanternfly hotline at 302-698-4632.

Image from Lehigh Valley
Herbein’s Garden Center

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