A unique-looking insect that is the furthest thing from a fly, the Spotted Lanternfly has been making its rounds in Pennsylvania. An invasive species, these creatures, though they have an interesting look, can be quite devastating to the ecosystem and the economy.

So, what exactly are Spotted Lanternflies, and what should you do when you see them? Here are a few fun and interesting facts and commonly asked questions about these plant-hopper insects.

The Spotted Lanternfly is not actually a fly, and though they may look like moths, they aren’t classified as those either. Considered planthopper insects, these bugs are more closely related to cicadas or aphids. They are identified by their piercing-sucking mouthparts which allow them to feed on plants, draining them of all their sap.

The Spotted lanternfly goes through several stages before it reaches maturity: egg, hatching, nymphs, and adults. They also go through several nymph stages called instars before they become adults.

Spotted Lanternflies are not originally from the states. This invasive species is native to China, India, and Vietnam. This insect has spread to other non-native areas, such as South Korea and Japan. They were first detected in Berks County, Pennsylvania in September 2014.

Unfortunately, yes. Spotted Lanternflies feed and lay their eggs on host plants. Their preferred host is Tree of Heaven, but they will also use apple, plum, peach, and apricot trees. Additionally, SLF will use grapevines and other types of trees, such as pines.

These insects rely on the trees for food, and like others in their species, they suck the sweet sap from the plants. They will feed, mate, and lay their eggs on a host plant and lay their eggs just about anywhere in the surrounding area.

Spotted lanternflies often suck in more sap than they require and end up leaving “honeydew” secretions behind. This can lead to more tree damage as this honeydew attracts other insects and can cause mold growth.

It can also accumulate on the ground beneath the tree. Unfortunately, this sweet-smelling liquid can attract wasps and other stinging insects, which brings a whole new set of problems.

With the overabundance of “honeydew,” a host tree can develop a fungus called “sooty mold.” This mold is black, has a pungent odor, and can be extremely difficult to remove from surfaces. Should it land on cars, house siding, furniture, or other outdoor decor, it will level a foul-smelling residue.

This sooty mold can also halt photosynthesis and cause severe stress to the tree. Without the ability to use light to convert water and CO2, it will likely die.

Spotted Lanternflies lay sizable egg masses, and they will leave them just about anywhere. Females can lay one or two masses, and they contain anywhere between 30-60 eggs. In most cases, the females are just looking for spots to lay their eggs.

If you should spot a Spotted Lanternfly, do not ignore it. Infestations can be quick and devastating. Call or report any sightings online at the PA agricultural website. If possible, dispose of it. Spotted Lanternflies lay their eggs in the fall, and it’s best to stop the spread.

Spotted Lanternfly egg masses are massive containing 30-60 eggs. You can often find them on solid surfaces like trees, stumps, cars, and even on house siding. These insects aren’t picky about where they lay their eggs. The masses are a creamy-white texture but are grayish pink when dry. They look like patches of clay or putty and begin to crack as they dry.

Spotted Lanternflies have four nymph stages, but only two distinct forms. The early-stage nymphs grow from ¼-inch to ¾-inch long and are black with white spots. They cannot fly and tend to stay on a host tree.

In the final stage, they reach nearly 1-inch in length, and gain red coloring in addition to the black and white.

Adult Spotted Lanternflies have pinkish, tent-shaped wings between 1- 1½ inches long. They have black spotted markings and bright red underwings; also, they have bright yellow abdomens with black stripes.

Unfortunately, they are not covered pests. Spotted Lanternflies are an invasive species. We do offer an exterior treatment for your home using an approved product that will help with your spotted lanternfly infestation. Please call for details.

We cannot repel them from your home or business. An exterior treatment using an approved product will kill them over time as they come in contact with the material where it was applied.

Concluding Thoughts

Spotted Lanternflies can be devastating to the ecosystem and our economy as they continue to spread. The best chance we have is to stop them from moving into new territory. If you should spot egg masses or a spotted lanternfly, take the proper steps to report and remove them.