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Spotted Lanternfly: Everything You Need to Know

There’s a lot of information going around about Spotted Lanternfly now that the insects have emerged in Philadelphia, Bucks, and Montgomery Counties. What is this insect and what does it look like? Where in our area has it been seen? What kind of damage can it do? How do we get rid of Spotted Lanternfly? The experts at Giroud have been working closely with the US Department of Agriculture and Penn State to answer all of these questions! In this round-up post, we share everything you need to know about Spotted Lanternfly, plus how to report your sightings and the best methods for combatting the insect and treating your property.

What is Spotted Lanternfly?

The Spotted Lanternfly is a new pest that has invaded our area. These beautiful but nasty bugs are leafhoppers that are swarming Pennsylvania in concerning numbers. First spotted in 2014, Penn State’s Agriculture Extension has been monitoring the Spotted Lanternfly and issuing warnings about this invasive insect. They’re a problem for local farmers who are losing fruit and timber crops to the insects’ voracious appetite. However, homeowners are also seeing impacts that range from annoying to significant damage.

What Does Spotted Lanternfly Look Like?

Life Cycle of Spotted Lanternfly
Life Cycle of Spotted Lanternfly, from egg masses to nymphs to adults.

One of the things that makes this insect difficult to control is the fact that it goes through several identities during it’s life cycle. Adult females lay eggs in the fall, and they go to great lengths to cover the egg masses in a secretion that dries hard and camouflages to look like dirt or clay. The young nymphs that emerge from the eggs in spring are black with white spots. In early summer, they gain red markings on their bodies. Then, midsummer they become adults and shed their skin to form wings on their backs.

These wings are their true tell-tale, with bright red markings on a background of black, white and beige patterns. However, when the adults are at rest or feeding on tree sap, their signature red marks are hidden underneath their folded wings making them more difficult to identify.

Spotted Lanternfly Damage

How Spotted Lanternfly Harms Trees

Ailanthus Altissima or Tree of LifeThese insects feed primarily on the Tree of Heaven, which is common throughout our region. Unfortunately, they also swarm many other types of trees, including Black Walnuts, Maples, Apples, Willows, and many more. According to the PA Department of Agriculture, they attack more than 70 species of trees, and 25 of them are found in Pennsylvania.

At this point, it’s hard to determine the long-term damage to trees. Emeilie Swackhamer, Penn State Horticulture Director, has been following the invasive insect and monitoring infested trees for 3 years. She explains in an informational YouTube video that while it’s still too early to say what the long-term effects will be, the insects are definitely causing significant die-back and defoliating branches in trees. However, there are other concerns you should be aware of.

How Spotted Lanternfly Causes Property Damage

These insects eat tree sap and then excrete droppings of a sweet, sticky substance called Honeydew. The honeydew will coat the tree, the base of the tree, and anything underneath the tree, including cars, hardscapes and decking. Then, black, sooty mold grows on the secreted substance. The combination of honeydew and black, sooty mold has an unpleasantly sour stench and is very difficult to remove from surfaces.

How they Attract Dangerous Insects

Even more unsettling, the secreted honeydew attracts stinging wasps! Wasps can’t resist the tantalizing smell of the honeydew, and they will swarm your property for a taste. Homeowners are struggling to rid their yards of stinging wasps, and it’s particularly a problem for children playing in the area!

How to Get Rid of Spotted Lanternfly

It is going to take a statewide effort to combat the spread of this insect. Awareness is the first step!

“We are fully prepared to combat the Spotted Lanternfly,” says Matt Giroud, Director of Field Operations at Giroud Tree & Lawn. “We are prepped and ready to treat these trees. The challenge is making the community aware of the problem.”

One of the things that makes this insect difficult to control is the fact that it goes through several identities during its life cycle. Adult females lay eggs in the fall, and they go to great lengths to cover the egg masses in a secretion that dries hard and camouflages to look like dirt or clay. The young nymphs that emerge from the eggs in spring are black with white spots. In early summer, they gain red markings on their bodies. Then, midsummer they become adults and shed their skin to form wings on their backs.

The experts at Giroud Tree and Lawn have been working closely with Penn State’s Department of Agricultural Sciences to determine the best treatments and techniques for combatting Spotted Lanternfly in each of the life cycle stages.

How to Get Rid of Spotted Lanternfly Nymphs

Spotted Lanternfly Sticky Bands Caged Tree
Sticky bands are wrapped around this tree to catch Spotted Lanternfly Nymphs as they crawl up the trunk. Penn State recommends wrapping the sticky bands in chicken wire to prevent birds and other small animals from becoming trapped.

The most effective way to trap Spotted Lanternfly Nymphs is by wrapping trees with sticky bands. Surround the bands with chicken wire to prevent accidentally trapping wildlife. A second option is to build a Circle Trap around the trunk of your tree. Both methods are effective and nymphs will get stuck as they crawl up and down the tree.

Click Here to read more about How to Combat Spotted Lanternfly in the Nymph Stages and for information on how to Band trees and how to build your own circle traps!

How to Get Rid of Spotted Lanternfly Adults

If you see adult Spotted Lanternfly, you should squash and kill it! However, these insects will attack a tree in swarms, making it difficult to squish them all! Chemical treatments may be necessary if you have a Spotted Lanternfly infestation on your property.

SLF Fall Foliar Spray Treatment
Giroud Plant Healthcare Manager, Rodney Stahl, applies a spray treatment to this tree to combat Spotted Lanternfly.

Giroud’s Spotted Lanternfly Control Program

Giroud’s SLF Program is based on the latest research and guidance from Penn State, the PA Department of Agriculture and the USDA. You should have your ISA Certified Giroud Arborist inspect your property to make recommendations on which trees to treat. He may suggest a two-part treatment program to eliminate Spotted Lanternfly.

  • July-Mid-September: Dinotefuran is applied as a Basal Trunk Spray.  It kills Spotted Lanternfly both on-contact and systemically.  For a few weeks after treatment, the insects are killed on contact or when they crawl on treated surfaces.  After the insecticide is absorbed through the tree’s vascular system, Spotted Lanternfly are killed when they feed on the tree.
  • September-Mid-November: Bifenthrin is sprayed on trees with Spotted Lanternfly.  This treatment kills the insects on contact and when they walk over surfaces with the residue on it.

How to Find and Destroy Egg Masses

How to find and destroy spotted lanternfly egg massesAdult Spotted Lanternfly start to lay their eggs in September through November, and one female Spotted Lanternfly can lay up to 100 eggs!

Removing and destroying egg masses will greatly reduce the spread of Spotted Lanternfly.

  • Destroy any eggs and coated egg masses. One female Spotted Lanternfly can lay up to 100 eggs! You can easily scrape them off and put them into a bag with rubbing alcohol to kill them.
  • Always check benches, stones, firewood, and anything else before moving them. Spotted Lanterfly will lay eggs will actually lay their eggs on virtually any smooth surface, typically on the undersides where the egg masses are better protected from predators. Egg masses can be found on benches, stones, firewood, cars, playsets, railings, outdoor grills, and patio furniture.
  • Along with eggs and egg masses, look for honeydew secretions, black, sooty mold and swarms of wasps. If you see any of these, have an ISA Certified Arborist inspect your trees!

In this instructional video, Giroud Tree and Lawn explains what to look for and how to remove and destroy Spotted Lanternfly Egg Masses:

How to Report Your Sightings

An incredible amount of research and field study goes into figuring out the best ways to combat Spotted Lanternfly. Penn State and the PA Department of Agriculture urge everyone to report their sightings. They have created a webpage for easy reporting:

Click Here to Report your sightings of Spotted Lanternfly!

Or call 1-888-4BadFly to report over the phone.

Schedule Your FREE Spotted Lanternfly Property Inspection

If you see any signs of Spotted Lanternfly on your property, don’t wait! Call 215-682-7704 to schedule a FREE inspection with your ISA Certified Giroud Arborist. Together, we can get rid of Spotted Lanternfly!

Author: Jeanne Hafner

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