WHAT IS THE Spotted Lantern Fly
BE ON THE LOOKOUT - THE SPOTTED LANTERN FLY IS HERE
The Spotted Lantern Fly is an invasive pest from Asia. It is such a threat to trees, plants, shrubs, and crops in the United States that communities and state and local governments are organizing in hopes of stopping it from spreading. Teams of arborists, economists, and agriculture experts estimate that the Spotted Lantern Fly could cost states where it flourishes hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year.
But what does the presence of the Spotted Lantern Fly mean for you, your home, and the trees, plants, and shrubs around your yard?
And none of it is good.
In our latest blog, our expert team of arborists discusses the Spotted Lantern Fly, how to identify it, what you can do to keep it from spreading and why it is not only a threat… it is incredibly gross.
THE SPOTTED LANTERN FLY - WHAT IS IT?
The spotted lantern fly is a pest from Asia found recently in the United States. This flying insect can grow over 1.8 inches long and has a green body with black spots on its wings. It lays its eggs in rotting fruit or compost piles, which then hatch into larvae that eat these waste materials.
The Spotted Lantern Fly is a tree hopper. Tree hoppers are a particular type of insect that eats tree sap throughout it’s life cycle. This is one of the reasons the Spotted Lantern Fly is such a threat to trees, plants and shrubs, the Spotted Lantern Fly never stops feasting on them.
Spotted lantern fly larvae are white at first but turn brownish-black as they grow older. They feed on more than 70 plant species, including important crops such as grapes, hops, and raspberries.
These pesky little bugs have an impact on our environment. They damage the trees and flowers in your yard or garden. If you’ve spotted a lantern fly, it is time to act before it has a negative impact on your property.
This guide will discuss spotted lantern flies, including what they are, how to identify them, the damages they cause, how to get rid of spotted lantern flies, and more!
THE STRAIGHT POOP
Starting with the end, the feces of the Spotted Lantern Fly are one of the worst things about an infestation. The feces of the Spotted Lantern Fly is called “Honeydew,” but do not let that name fool you. Spotted Lantern Fly feces are nothing like the melon with which it shares it’s name.
Spotted Lantern Flies defecate constantly. Their feces look like a black mist or mildew. A swarm of Spotted Lantern Flies can cover an entire tree in their feces. And what might be even worse, imagine a tree covered in Spotted Lantern Flies that are constantly defecating. Then imagine walking under that tree…
Additionally, the waste of the Spotted Lantern Fly is a breeding ground for mold. When mold grows in the bug’s feces on a plant or tree it can damage the plant or tree, cause it to become unhealthy and even die. When Spotted Lantern Flies infest crops and farmland their feces and the mold it causes can kill entire fields.
How Did this happen?
It is believed that the first Spotted Lantern Flies came to the US aboard a cargo ship from Asia. Since each female Spotted Lantern Fly can lay 35 to 50 eggs there were soon BILLIONS of spotted lantern flies in the US. Orchards, the logging industry and the wine industry have identified the Spotted Lantern Fly as a threat to their production.
Parks, local governments and state governments have concluded the Spotted Lantern Fly problem is too big for them to solve alone. They are recruiting community members to assist with controlling their population. Groups of citizens organize “squashathons” where the goal is to kill as many Spotted Lantern Flies as possible.
MORE ABOUT The Spotted Lantern Fly?
The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is a destructive invasive pest that was first discovered in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 2014. It is native to Asia but has become established in eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and much of the Northeast.
It is an invasive pest that feeds on the sap of various plants and trees. The spotted lanternfly can defoliate plants and cause significant damage to fruit trees.
How Do I Recognize A Spotted Lantern Fly?
The Spotted Lantern Fly can be easily distinguished by its large size, bright colors, and unique spots on its wings. Adults are about 1-inch-long with black bodies marked with white spots on the wings. They are covered with a powdery wax that protects them from predators and parasites.
Female spotted lanternflies lay eggs in groups of 30-50 on tree trunks or branches from May through July. Eggs hatch about two weeks later into light brown nymphs. The nymphs then crawl up tree trunks where they remain until fall, when they drop onto the ground to overwinter as adults under loose bark or other protected locations such as wooden shipping pallets or firewood piles outside buildings.
Are There Any Predators Of The Spotted Lanternfly?
The spotted lanternfly is a relatively new pest in the Northeast and has no natural predators to keep its population in check. The closest thing to being its predator is a parasitic wasp that feeds on its eggs but doesn’t kill all of them.
Do Adult Female Flies Need To Lay Eggs On A Specific Type Of Tree To Survive?
No. The adult female spotted lantern fly does not need to lay eggs on a specific type of tree for her offspring to survive. The larvae of these flies are voracious feeders, and they can crawl from trees to other host plants if their food source is depleted.
In fact, spotted lantern fly larvae have been found feeding on more than 400 different plant species in North America.
CAN ORGANIC BASED TECHNIQUES CONTROL THE SPOTTED LANTERN FLY?
This is one of the questions that people ask most often about The Spotted Lantern Fly. Below is a video from an expert in organic gardening discussing a few techniques that she is using in hopes of preventing the spread and infestation of the Spotted Lantern Fly.
ARE THERE NO TREATMENTS?
There has been some good news about treating the Spotted Lantern Fly. Two recent studies linked here and here have found that a natural fungus kills up to 50% of the Spotted Lantern Flies in the area of treatment.
The fungus is called Beauveria Bassiana. It is used as an organic treatment for many pests that target plants like aphids. It is safe for humans and animals, but the information is conflicting as to whether or not it is harmful to bees.
To use the Beauveria Bassiana, simply mix it with water in a spray bottle and spray any areas in which you find the Spotted Lantern Fly.
Others are experimenting with utilizing Neem Oil to control the Spotted Lantern Fly with some success. There is an excellent article on using Neem Oil from the Penn State Extension here. Be careful when using Neem Oil as it can be harmful to bees and fish.
One teenager in Pennslyvania invented a trap that protects trees and kills Spotted Lantern Flies without the need for chemicals or even squishing the bugs. Check it out below.
WHAT ARE ALL THE ORGANIC WAYS PEOPLE ARE KILLiNG THE SPOTTED LANTERN FLY?
There are lots of organic ways that people and communities are attempting to control the Spotted Lantern Fly.
As mentioned above, many communities have begun holding “squishathons” to kill as many Spotted Lantern Flies as possible.
In addition, to simply stepping on them or squashing them with a heavy flyswatter, baton or other object there are some other techniques that are being employed to kill the Spotted Lantern Fly.
- The bottle technique: If you see a Spotted Lantern Fly on a tree, simply hold a bottle over it. The bug will jump into the bottle.
- Tape: Cover a section of your trees with bug catching tape. As the Spotted Lantern Flies move up and down your tree during the day they will get stuck on the tape and die. IMPORTANT – Be sure to put mesh over your tape so birds and other animals do not get stuck on the tape.
- Vacuum Cleaner – This might be the easiest and most satisfying way to kill the Spotted Lantern Fly. You can simply vacuum them up from your tree using a strong vacuum cleaner.
SO WHAT'S THE VERDICT? DO THESE TECHNIQUES WORK TO STOP THE SPOTTED LANTERN FLY?
While we wish we could say that squishing, taping and netting were enough to control the Spotted Lantern Fly and prevent an infestation, our arborists have not found these techniques to be effective at a large scale. These technique do work, however, arborists are pragmatists by nature. Our goal is to get results.
Squishing, taping and netting catch hundreds of Spotted Lantern Flies, but most colonies of these pests are made up of thousands if not tens or even hundreds of thousands of bugs. In our experience, no amount of squishing, taping and netting will kill enough Spotted Lantern Flies to control a population and prevent an infestation.
In order to protect the trees and plants on your property as well as your community, more advanced methods that can target the entire population of Spotted Lantern Flies on your property are required. Squishing, taping and netting will not be enough.
Even the use of Beauveria Bassiana and Neem Oil on their own without other techniques will not protect your trees, plants and shrubs from The Spotted Lantern Fly. As mentioned above, studies have shown those techniques to kill at most 50% of the treated Spotted Lantern Flies. In colonies that can consist of tens to hundreds of thousands of bugs, killing only 50% of the population is not nearly enough to protect your yard and community.
WHAT CAN YOU DO? HOW CAN YOU KILL THE SPOTTED LANTERN FLY?
Squishing, taping, netting and even vacuuming can be satisfying ways to kill these bugs, but a more comprehensive plan is required to control their populations, prevent infestation and protect your trees, plants and shrubs.
The Arborists at Mayer Tree Service have created the following plan for dealing with the Spotted Lantern Fly. The best way to kill these bugs is by following these steps.
1. Cut down the ailanthus trees on your property
The ailanthus tree or Tree of Heaven is an invasive species of plant that is growing rapidly throughout North America. It grows rapidly and crowds out native species. Additionally, it secretes a toxic chemical into the soil that is deadly to surrounding plants.
To make matters worse, The Tree of Heaven is the primary food source for the Spotted Lantern Fly! Ailanthus trees on your property attract these pests and give them a food source from which to establish their colony. From there these bugs will spread to other trees, plants and shrubs around your property damaging everything they touch.
The best solution is for stopping an infestation before it starts is to remove any ailanthus trees on your property.
2. Treat trees and shrubs with systemic insecticide
Squishing, taping, netting and other techniques might sound like fun and are a satisfying way to kill Spotted Lantern Flies, but they are slow, ineffective and do little to kill the larva and eggs of the pest. To truly control the population and prevent infestation, systemic insecticide is a must.
Systemic insecticide in many cases is the best insecticide to use to protect trees. Systemic insecticide is injected into the trunk of a tree. It moves through the tree and kills the insects feeding on it. As discussed above The Spotted Lantern Fly feeds on the trees it attacks.
Our arborists have found systemic insecticide to more effective against The Spotted Lantern Fly than topical sprays. These pests often infest an entire tree. Treated an entire tree that can be over one hundred feet tall with a topical sprayer can be inefficient and ineffective. Systemic insecticides, however, move through the tree,s vascular system that carries its water and nutrients.
This means the insecticides reach the entirety of the tree, including its highest limbs and leaves. Systemic insecticide kills these pests no matter where they are on the tree by poisoning them through the sap and wood on which they feed.
A couple of words of caution about systemic insecticide. First, always check the product label before using systemic insecticide to be sure it is safe for your trees, plants, and shrubs. We recommend ALWAYS using a professional when it comes to systemic insecticide. A product label is no substitute for decades of expert experience when it comes to the health and safety of your plants.
Second, you will want to plan ahead. Unlike topical insecticide sprays which work immediately, systemic insecticide must work its way through a tree in order to protect it. This will take some time.
If you are worried about infestation or have heard reports of The Spotted Lantern Fly in the area, contact an arborist immediately about systemic insecticide. You’ll want to protect your trees before the bugs arrive.
3. Spray the biologic fungus
Biologic fungus, Beauveria Bassiana, while not an effective treatment for the Spotted Lantern Fly on its own should be part of a comprehensive treatment plan for controlling the population and preventing infestation. As mentioned above, be sure to check to make sure Biologic fungus is safe for your plants and trees prior to use.
Using biologic fungus is easy. Simply, purchase the product, and mix it with water in a spray bottle. Then spray the affected area.
As with systemic insecticide, we recommend hiring or consulting with an arborist or tree care specialist prior to using biologic fungus. It can be easy to use, but proper and effective use is more complicated and requires skill and expertise for proper execution.
4. Spray horticultural oil to smother the eggs
So far we have focused on killing the adult Spotted Lantern Fly, but as mentioned, females can lay up to 50 eggs. If the eggs are not destroyed, infestations will continue.
For killing the eggs of the Spotted Lantern Fly, Mayer Tree Service recommends the use of Horticultural Oils. Horticultural Oils have been around as long as humans have been raising plants for food. Soap, sulfur, oil and ash were utilized as far back as 2500 BC to protect plants from pests and their eggs.
Modern Horticultural Oils are designed specifically to control insects, mites, eggs, and larva. Commercial horticultural oils are refined, filtered, and distilled to make them as safe as possible for plants.
If you plan to apply Horticultural Oils yourself, be sure to follow the instructions carefully. Dilute the product to the proper concentration prior to use.
As with our other recommendations for treating the Spotted Lantern Fly, Mayer Tree Service suggests hiring or at least consulting with a professional. In general, Horticultural Oils are very safe to use, but to get the best results they need to be used properly.
ANOTHER PERSEPECTIVE ON TREATING THE SPOTTED LANTERN FLY
Arborist Jason Gaskill has been dealing with the Spotted Lantern Fly for years. In the video below, he gives the perspective of an arborist on treating the Spotted Lantern Fly and what he believes are the most effective way to protect your trees, plants and shrubs.
What are the signs and symptoms of spotted lanternfly infestation on my trees, shrubs, and other plants?
Spotted lanternfly eggs are laid on trees, but they can also be found on all of the following plants:
- Maple (including Norway maple, sugar maple, box elder, and silver maple)
- Ash (green and black)
- Willow (all types)
- Poplar (all types)
- Cherry tree (all types)
The most obvious sign of spotted lanternfly infestation is the presence of egg masses on trees, fences, and other surfaces near where they lay their eggs. They look like jelly-like blobs stuck to a tree trunk or fence post.
The eggs are laid in clusters and turn yellow before hatching into orange nymphs (immature insects). Nymphs have black spots on their bodies that resemble freckles or bruises on people.
If you see these spots anywhere on your home or property, don’t hesitate to contact your local county extension office or tree company service such as Mayer immediately so they can help identify whether they are spotted lanternflies or another pest.
How Does It Damage Trees And Plants?
The spotted lantern fly feeds by piercing the bark of trees with its sharp mouthparts (mandibles) and sucking out plant sap.
Feeding injuries cause leaves to curl under at the edges, small brown spots on leaves, and reduced leaf size or discoloration caused by the presence of fungal pathogens introduced by SLF feeding activity.
The damage may cause mold to grow on trees and plants, and a sticky substance called honeydew will fall from the affected plants. The tree may eventually die if left untreated or if the infestation is severe enough.
Why Should You Care About Preventing Spotted Lantern flies?
The short answer is that if you’re a homeowner, you should care about spotted lantern flies on your property because they threaten everything around you.
The long answer is that the spotted lantern fly has the potential to be far more destructive than other invasive insects.
The pest feeds on over 70 different plants and can cause significant damage to crops, forests, and ornamental trees. It also has the potential to decimate thousands of acres of hardwood trees that are home to other valuable wildlife species like songbirds and bats.
How To Get Rid Of Spotted Lantern Fly
We know you’re wondering how to get rid of the spotted lanternfly.
Here are a few tips on how to make sure you’re doing everything you can to stop these pests from taking over:
Keep your property clean
The spotted lanternfly likes to hide in mulch and debris—so if you keep your garden tidied up, it’ll be harder for them to find places to lay their eggs.
Follow the comprehensive plan outlined above
Traps, taping, netting and squishing might sound like fun, but to control the population and prevent infestation, follow the comprehensive plan that was outlined above for killing The Spotted Lantern Fly. To get the best results, Mayer Tree Service recommends engaging a professional tree service. Removing ailanthus trees, treating trees with systemic insecticide, spraying biologic fungus and applying horticultural oils are complex processes that are best handled by professionals.
Use sticky traps, netting & squishing
If you would like to use traps, nets and squishing, those techniques will catch and kill the Spotted Lantern Fly. Do not rely on them as your own methods, however, as they will not kill a large enough percentage of the population.
Hire professional pest control services
If you find adult spotted lantern flies around your home, it may be best to hire a professional pest control company like Mayer Tree Services to help remove them from your property. Professional pest control companies can access more effective pesticides than you can purchase over the counter at hardware stores or garden centers. What’s more, they know how best to treat infestations without damaging anything else.
THE SPOTTED LANTERN FLY – Conclusion
We’ve made it through the conclusion paragraph, which means you’re one step closer to getting rid of the SLF! Now that you have some new information about these insects, what will you do with them? What is your next step in becoming an active participant in stopping this invasive species from taking over? We must work together as a community to prevent this pest from spreading.
If the Spotted Lantern Fly arrives on your property or in your community, you will need to develop a specific plan quickly that is right for you, your family and your property, feel free to reach out to the experts at Mayer Tree Service for help.