Spotted lanternfly - Lycorma delicatula
Spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula). (Photo: Peter L. Coffey, University of Maryland Extension, 2017–2021)

By Audrey Hill, Feature Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

Audrey Hill
Audrey Hill, Feature Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

In 2021 California enacted a state exterior quarantine that prohibits the entry of many articles from any area infested with the invasive Spotted Lanternfly into California. These prohibited articles include plants and firewood exposed to the environment, shipping and storage containers, and outdoor household goods such as furniture, vehicles, and agricultural equipment. Currently infested areas within the U.S. include Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, and Maryland. The pest has also been reported in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and North Carolina.

The Spotted Lanternfly was first found Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 2014. Since then- despite many county and state quarantine efforts- the insect has spread throughout the Northeast, worrying many that California could be next. The Spotted Lanternfly has successfully avoided human intervention partly because of human transport. Transport by humans was most likely how the pest got to the U.S., and it is likely the way it continues to travel through the states. The Spotted Lanternfly cannot withstand long flights. Still, they lay eggs on a vast spectrum of surfaces, hence the reason for the many prohibited articles in the continuing California quarantine.

What harm can they do?

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture states on the PDA Spotted Lanternfly Alert page, “The economic impact could total in the hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs for those in the grapes, apple, hops, and hardwood industries.” The Spotted Lanternfly lays 30-50 eggs during each reproductive cycle which will hatch and feed on the host plant. They feed on a wide range of woody plant species; however, they prefer Tree of Heaven or grape vines. Other common host plants are hardwoods and stone fruits. Their feeding produces honeydew, a sweet sticky fluid that decreases the host plants’ photosynthetic abilities, attracts other pests, and promotes sooty mold growth. The mold is harmless to humans but can kill plants.

Furthermore, the Spotted Lanternfly can affect more than just agriculture. According to an article written by Kelly Oten, an assistant professor and extension specialist in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at the North Carolina State College of Natural Resources, entitled Ask an Expert: How Will the Spotted Lanternfly Impact North Carolina? the “[Spotted lanternflies] aggregate in large numbers and have been known to swarm restaurant doors, enter local businesses, fly up people’s shirts, and amass on outdoor furniture, toys, and trees.” These pests affect agriculture and tourism, forestry, and landscaping as well.

How to stop this pest?

Although the pest has not reached California, it has the potential to do a lot of harm to agriculture and public well-being. The CDFA Spotted Lanternfly page states, “The public will play a key role in detecting spotted lanternfly and the success of stopping its spread depends on help from the public to look for and report signs of the pest.” Therefore, if a lanternfly is identified, it is highly recommended to take photos, notify the CDFA at 1-800-491-1899, and kill it. Other ways to help reduce the risk of infestation are by removing or destroying any life cycle of the pest, removing their favorite host tree, the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), or even using pesticides.

Information in this article was compiled from the CDFA Spotted Lanternfly overview page, CornellCALS “Spotted Lanternfly Range in the U.S.” and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Spotted Lanternfly overview page and alert page.

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