These “planthoppers” are indigenous to China, India, Vietnam, and eastern Asia, but back in 2014, spotted lanternflies made their way to southeastern Pennsylvania. However, they likely arrived as early as 2012. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture wants you to smash them, crush them, do whatever you have to do to eliminate them, and then let the agency know you saw one by reporting it.
UPDATE: The spotted lanternfly is branching out and expanding their area of habitat! New Jersey has become the next state to warn residents of these pests. The residents of the following counties have been urged to inspect their cars for the insect before leaving their county: Warren, Hunterdon, Mercer, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, and Somerset. They have recently branched out into Morris and Middlesex counties.
Why are they so keen on getting rid of spotted lanternflies?
They are a nuisance
They don’t bite or sting people or animals, but they will take refuge in homes when the weather turns colder. And they are pretty big. The spotted lanternfly adult is approximately 1″ long and 1/2″ wide at rest. The adults’ forewings are gray with black spots, and the tips of the wings are reticulated black blocks outlined in gray. Their hindwings are a strong red, which shows through making them very colorful, especially in flight. If you like this kind of thing, they are actually quite impressive and arguably beautiful.
They are a threat to forestry
Spotted lanternflies are planthoppers, so they can bring disease from plant to plant. And when they go for a tree, they swarm it. Their preferred host is the tree of heaven (which sounds a lot better than it is), but they have a large host range including maples, black locusts, and fruit trees. They tend to travel in large swarms and will attack a tree all at once. The swarm will also weaken it – making the tree more susceptible to other diseases.
Fruit is their favorite
Stone fruits, apples, and blueberries are just three examples of the fruit trees, vines, and bushes that can be damaged and at risk from spotted lanternfly swarms. Imagine a summer without a peach cobbler? Or Thanksgiving without apple pie? What if the blueberries we put on our cereal in the morning just weren’t available anymore? Fresh fruit is important to our health, and those flies are a threat to our food supply.
The most important fruit of all
Arguably, the most important fruit these flies threaten: the grape. Grape jelly, grape juice – but let’s get right down to brass tacks. We are talking wine. It’s not only a delicious drink paired with the right pasta, but it’s a very important industry in our area. The spotted lanternfly attacks vineyards! Why? Why would they do that? What’s next? Hops?! Now we know why the PA Dept. of Agriculture is so keen on keeping track of these flies, eradicating them, and preventing further damage.
So, make sure to let the department of agriculture know if you see a spotted lanternfly. You could give Western Pest Services a call because we have Board Certified entomologists on staff that can consult and help you out with what to do next in order to control spotted lanternflies and stop any associated damage.