The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is an invasive pest, primarily known to feed on tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) but has many other host plants, including grape, hop, apple, stone fruit, maple, poplar, walnut, and willow. If allowed to spread in the United States, it could impact the country’s fruit, ornamental, and forest industries. Early detection is critical to prevent economic and ecological losses. The public has played 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.
Distribution: The spotted lanternfly is present in China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. In 2014, the insect was first detected in the United States in Pennsylvania. Since then, infestations have been detected in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia.
How it Spreads: Spotted lanternflies are invasive and can spread rapidly when introduced to new areas. While 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. The spotted lanternfly lays eggs on almost any surface, including vehicles, trailers, outdoor equipment, and patio furniture.
Damage: Both nymphs and adults of spotted lanternfly cause damage when they feed, sucking sap from stems and branches. This can reduce photosynthesis, weaken the plant, and eventually contribute to the plant’s death. In addition, feeding can cause the plant to ooze or weep, resulting in a fermented odor, and the insects themselves excrete large amounts of fluid (honeydew). These fluids promote mold growth and attract other insects.
The spotted lanternfly is a significant threat to agriculture, including grapes.
Photo credit: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture