In September 2014, Pennsylvania authorities detected the presence of a new tree-killing insect, spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), in Berks County (PA DoA 2015). The insect had been present for two years (Spichiger 2015). This is the first time the lanternfly has been reported in the United States.
Pennsylvania began an intensive survey to delimit the outbreak and instituted a quarantine to prevent spread of the insect. The quarantine applied to movement of brush, debris, bark, or yard waste; logs, stumps, or any tree parts; firewood of any species; grapevines and nursery stock. The quarantine also covers crates; landscaping, remodeling or construction waste; and such outdoor household articles as 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 (PA DoA 2015).
USDA APHIS formed a New Pest Advisory Committee (NPAG), helped with the delimiting survey, notified port inspectors to look for egg masses on hard-surfaced imports such as stone, and conducted trace-forward inspections of companies that received stone from the importer whose site was infested (Spichiger 2015). Searches by officials with the help of the public had – as of August 2015 – found no lanternflies outside the quarantine zone (Rhodes 2015).
The spotted lanternfly is a planthopper from Asia, found in countries ranging from China, Korea, and Vietnam to India. It has been introduced to Korea (in 2006), and possibly other countries. The lanternfly attacks many important agricultural crops, including grapes, apples, pines, and stone fruits, as well as more than 70 additional species (Spichiger 2015).
Lanternflies lay egg masses on smooth bark, stone, and other vertical surfaces. Possible egg sites include vehicles, campers, yard furniture, farm equipment or other items stored outside, or even masonry walls (PA DoA 2015).
Nymphs develop through four immature stages. During this development, they spread from the hatching site by crawling (PA DoA 2015). The first three instars have been found on 30 species in Pennsylvania, including oak, birch, blackgum, and poison ivy. Third instars seek tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima); in fact, they die if don’t find Ailanthus (Rhodes 2015). Unfortunately, Ailanthus is an introduced and invasive tree that is widespread in the Mid-Atlantic region (as well as elsewhere in North America). Immature instars crawl up the trunk early in the day, then back down in the afternoon or evening, so sticky bands can effectively trap the insect (Spichiger 2015). Fourth instar nymphs are very active (unlike adults or earlier instars); they hop and fly several feet (Rhodes 2015). Adults appear as early as July (see photo). Adults are poor flyers, but strong jumpers (PA DoA 2015).
In the fall, adults seek tree of heaven (Ailanthus) as the preferred site for egg laying. However, as noted above, lanternflies will use a wide range of smooth vertical surfaces (PA DoA 2015).
Infested trees can have weeping wounds of sap on the trunks. As insect populations rise, honey dew secretions build up at the base of the tree, blackening the soil around the base. The largest colonies can produce large fungal mats at the base of tree. Wasps, hornets, bees, and ants attracted to the honeydew secretions can become conspicuous (PA DoA 2015).
Pennsylvania also asked the public to help by scraping egg masses off trees or other surfaces and collecting or photographing specimens for the survey effort (PA DoA 2015). Since November, members of the public have scraped off egg mass containing an estimated 25,800 eggs. They have also trapped an estimated 99,385 nymphs on tree bands (Rhodes 2015).
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. 2014. Spotted Lanternfly found in Pennsylvania. Posted: 6 Nov 2014.
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Spotted Lanternfly website Accessed August 13 2015 .
Rhodes, D. Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, National Plant Board, August 2015.
Spichiger, S-E. Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, 26th USDA Interagency Research Forum on Invasive Species, January 2015.