An adult spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula).

Photo courtesy of Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

Lycorma delicatula—a rather lyrical name for a wicked little beast—has been confirmed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to be present in Berks County. This sighting of the critter is thought to be the first in the U.S.; confirmation was made in September by the state’s DOA in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. A quarantine was established in November.

Commonly known as spotted lanternfly, it’s not really a fly, per se, but a planthopper. It is native to China and is present in Korea, India, Vietnam and parts of eastern Asia. Spotted lanternfly is considered invasive in Korea, where it was introduced in 2006, and since then has affected 25 species of plants that also are grown in Pennsylvania. It is known, however, to attack more than 70 other species, including apples, grapes, pines and stone fruits.

Spotting spotted lanternfly may be relatively easy, due to size—about 1 inch long and ½ inch wide—and its bright, contrasting colors. Egg masses begin to appear in September, and are laid on smooth bark, stone and other vertical surfaces— including vehicles, patio furniture and practically anything stored outside. Early stage nymphs, which hatch from late April to early May, are black with white spots; as nymphs mature, brilliant red patches develop among the white markings. Adults may be seen as soon as July, and feature a duller, gray and black coloration while at rest. When startled, however, or when flying, the pest displays dramatic hind wings with red and black blocks separated by a band of white. The red portion normally has black spots. A yellow abdomen banded with black completes the color show.

Scouting should begin in spring, when nymphs can be observed on the smooth branches of smaller plants and vines. Grape vines and fruit trees are especially susceptible, and if the population of spotted lanternfly is large enough, the infestation may prove lethal. Adults move to trees as preferred hosts, including the invasive tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), where increased populations may result in the buildup of honeydew secretions at the trees’ bases. Signs can include blackening of the soil around the base of the tree, as well as increased ant, bee, hornet and wasp activity.

At present, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is surveying Berks and surrounding counties to determine the spread of spotted lanternfly, and is reviewing options for control up to and including eradication. The quarantine includes a variety of plant, wood and stone products. According to the Department, “Industries and regulated articles under the quarantine that are not to be removed/moved to a new area are:

Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), a preferred host of spotted lanternfly.

Photo courtesy of Ohio State Weed Lab Archive, The Ohio State University; Bugwood.org

  • Any living stage of the Spotted Lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula. This includes egg masses, nymphs, and adults.
  • Brush, debris, bark, or yard waste
  • Landscaping, remodeling or construction waste
  • Logs, stumps, or any tree parts
  • Firewood of any species
  • Grapevines for decorative purposes or as nursery stock
  • Nursery stock
  • Crated materials
  • Outdoor household articles including recreational vehicles, lawn tractors and mowers, mower decks, grills, grill and furniture covers, tarps, mobile homes, tile, stone, deck boards, mobile fire pits, any associated equipment and trucks or vehicles not stored indoors.”

There’s a helpful online webinar that covers the pest, what to watch for and what to do if you spot it: Check it out at https://meeting.psu.edu/p8vdmfal67f/?launcher=false&fcsContent=true&pb Mode=normal

Plus, Penn State University has a dedicated website, located at http://extension.psu.edu/pests/spotted-lanternfly.