Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula)
French common name: Le fulgore tacheté
Spotted lanternfly (SLF; Lycorma delicatula) is an invasive planthopper native to Southeastern Asia and is currently a problematic invasive pest in South Korea. It’s first known North American establishment was in Berks County, Pennsylvania, USA in September 2014. However, it is likely believed this species was first introduced in 2012. SLF has yet to be detected in Canada.
The adult insect feeds primarily on the non-native tree, tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), although nymphs are known to attack a wide range of native hardwood and fruit trees. Grape vines are a preferred host of the spotted lanternfly which can attack en masse. Currently, intense management efforts are underway in PA with a focus on public awareness, detection surveys, and eradication. If this species continues to establish itself in the United States and spreads to Canada, it could be a formidable threat to various industries and the economy – of special concern for the fruit orchard and grape product industries.
• Do not move the insect or egg masses (check items that are stored outside, such as vehicles, outdoor furniture, picnic tables, planters, boats, children’s play furniture – especially if stored outside under tree of heaven)
• If you have a business, check your product before you ship, especially if you are leaving a quarantined area
• Be on the lookout for egg masses “If you see it, scrape it” – scrape off egg masses into a plastic bag filled with hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol, seal and throw away
• Report all sightings
Eggs: Brown, seed-like, covered in a grey, mud-coloured secretion to form an egg mass arranged vertically.
Nymph: Four growth phases (instars). Immature nymphs are black with white spots, and as they mature, they become larger. The fourth instar gains red spots with those distinctive patches of black and white spots.
Adult: Wings are approximately 1” long and are grey with black spots. When the wing is open, it has a bright red underwing.
Photo: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org
The spotted lanternfly completes its life cycle in one year:
- Eggs hatch into nymphs in spring (April) and enter a cycle of ascending-descending host trees
- Nymphs ascend trees to feed on leaves and branches, and frequently fall due to environmental conditions (wind), and ascend the tree again
- There are 4 instars of SLF nymphs. After hatching from eggs in April, the nymphs mature through the 4 stages, until they develop into adults in mid-summer (July)
- Feeding takes place from April until November
- Feeding preferences change as the insect matures: wide range of host trees as immature nymphs, but specifically target a few species as adults (i.e. Ailanthus and Salix)
- In late summer, adults will mate and lay eggs
- Insects overwinter as eggs within an egg case; adults do not survive through winter
Spotted lanternfly egg mass:
Spotted lanternfly nymphs:
As a nymph, the spotted lanternfly feeds on a wide range of plants and trees. Over 70 potential host species have been recorded, including:
• Tree of heaven
• Prunus spp. (plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, almonds)
• Grape (vine)
As an adult, the spotted lanternfly mainly feeds on the Ailanthus (tree of heaven), although it has also been observed on a few other species, including Salix (weeping willow).
Tree of Heaven. Photo: Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org
Signs and symptoms of spotted lanternfly include:
- Muddy-grey egg masses on or around host trees until eggs hatch in late spring
- Egg masses dry and crack during the cold months
- Dark streaks or sap flowing down the bark of the tree resulting from the spotted lanternfly piercing the bark to access phloem and sap in order to feed
- Honeydew secretions (insect secretions) at the base of a host tree that can become covered in a sooty-coloured mold
- Increased bee and wasp activity due to exposed sap and honeydew
- Adult insects congregating on host trees (especially Ailanthus) in the fall
- Spotted lanternfly swarms on or at the base of host trees and vines
Photo: Emelie Swackhamer, Penn State University, Bugwood.org
Build-up of honeydew secretions at the base of a tree, a sign of a heavy spotted lanternfly infestation.
Spotted lanternfly is native to Southeastern Asia, including China, India, Japan, and Vietnam. Recently, it has become a problematic invasive pest in South Korea.
The first North American detection occurred in September 2014 in Pennsylvania. As of May 2021, quarantined areas exist within 34 counties in Pennsylvania. New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia also have counties under quarantine. In August 2020 an infestation was found in Staten Island.
Click here to view a New York State Integrated Pest Management map.
Click here to view a Pennsylvania SLF Quarantine Map.
Due to the recent detection and limited distribution of SLF in North America, impacts have not been widespread. Feeding damage in PA from adults has been observed on Ailanthus and Salix, although no tree mortality has been reported. Literature from Korea reports that the nymphs do the most damage, feeding on and destroying grape vines and other hosts en masse. In addition, due to SLF’s wide range of hosts during immature life stages, it has the potential to result in widespread damage on a broad range of species.
In Pennsylvania where this pest has been detected, impacts on the economy are possible. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (2014) stated that the spotted lanternfly “poses a significant threat to the state’s more than $20.5 million grape, nearly $134 million apple, and more than $24 million stone fruit industries. Pine and hardwood logging in Pennsylvania also account for $12 billion in sales.
Similar economic concerns exist if this pest were to establish itself in Ontario. Ontario has a prominent wine and grape industry, with a total economic impact of $3.3 billion (see infographic; Frank, Rimerman & Co. LLP, 2013), including impacts on jobs, taxes, and tourism. In addition, Ontario’s $43 million tender fruit industry (including peaches, pears, plums, and nectarines) (Ontario Tender Fruit Producer’s Marketing Board, 2014), $60 million apple industry (Ontario Apple Growers, 2015), and $1 billion logging industry (NRCan, 2012) are all threatened by the potential arrival of the spotted lanternfly.
As the spotted lanternfly was only recently introduced to North America, little is known about the extent of damage that it will cause. Although it is too early to make accurate predictions on actual economic impacts, the wine and grape, tender fruit, apple, and forestry industries are at the greatest risk.
The spotted lanternfly attacks many important agricultural trees and plants, including the grapevine. If this invasive species were to establish in Ontario, it would threaten the $3.3 Billion wine industry.
Impacts to ecosystems may be less significant than impacts to agricultural areas, but are still possible. Damage on tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), the main host of the adult spotted lanternfly, is of low ecological concern – Ailanthus is a non-native tree species originating from China and is frequently the focus of other control and eradication efforts. However, other potentially susceptible host trees include native species, such as willows, maples, and poplar. The extent of impacts on these species is unknown, as spotted lanternfly has only recently been detected in North America, but could have negative overall impacts on forest health. Even if SLF does not cause tree mortality, the stress induced from an infestation could weaken a trees defenses, and make it more vulnerable to attack from other insect or pathogen species.
The spotted lanternfly threatens vineyards and fruit orchards, which can result in significant social impacts if the insect becomes established. For example, popular summer activities could be impacted, such as apple picking, enjoying fresh produce from farmer’s markets, or wine tasting at local vineyards.
In addition, buildup of egg masses and insect secretions (honeydew) can cause damage to patio furniture, garden ornaments, and cars.
This insect can also impact the aesthetic value of healthy forests, by causing dark streaks of sap to appear on the bark of impacted trees, and the growth of dark sooty-coloured mold on honeydew secretions.
Until more is known about this insect and its threat to Ontario and the rest of Canada, management efforts should focus on awareness and education. This will increase the likelihood of early detection and control of the spotted lanternfly if it arrives here.
Quarantine zones have been established in PA to limit distribution, slow the spread, and possibly eradicate SLF.
Initially, six townships within Berks County, PA quarantined (November 2014). As of May 2021, 34 counties in Pennsylvania are under quarantine.
Many items are quarantined such as outdoor furniture, crated materials, vehicles, campers, stoneware (tiles), firewood, and nursery stock; SLF lay eggs on anything with a smooth surface outdoors.
TIP: Check car for egg masses before leaving a quarantined area!
Detection surveys are being conducted to track the infestation of SLF. These surveys are mostly visual, but sweep netting and tree banding also aid in detection. Visual reconnaissance surveys are being done with the help of volunteers and citizen scientists. Any SLF egg masses that are detected are confirmed, recorded, and scraped into plastic bags containing an alcohol solution to kill them.
Respond and Control
Where spotted lanternfly has been detected in Pennsylvania, several control options are available. These methods are used in combination on a site-by-site basis.
Scrape egg masses off infested trees – use a flat object (such as a knife or plastic card) to scrape egg masses off the tree trunk. Seal the egg masses in a plastic bag filled with hand sanitizer or alcohol to kill the eggs and dispose.
- Tree Banding– adhesive paper bands will be placed around high risk trees (tree of heaven) to capture SLF as they ascend and congregate on the trunk. Tree bands are routinely removed and disposed of to kill SLF individuals.
- Tree Removal– Removal of infested trees, and high-risk host trees (tree-of-heaven) up to a quarter mile (400 m) from an infested site
Insecticides can be used by licenced applicators to control SLF populations. Insecticides will be applied to host tree stands from the ground level; aerial applications are not being considered. The primary insecticide being considered for SLF eradication is Dinotefuran, which will be applied according to label regulations and landowner consent.Chemical
Insecticides are used to kill SLF either systemically or on contact. Contact insecticides are directly sprayed at the insect, killing it. Depending on the contact insecticide, some have a long residual activity and can continue killing SLF as they walk over the chemically treated surface. Systemic insecticides are injected into the host and are absorbed by the roots, bark or leaves as it moves through the vascular system. When SLF feed on the treated host, the insecticide kills the insect. There are four main methods to apply insecticides including tree injection, bark sprays, soil drenches, and direct sprays.
The efficacy of other insecticides is being tested on small-scale experimental plots. These insecticides include bifenthrin, pymetrozine, and Beauveria bassiana strain GHA. If these prove to be effective, they may be added to the SLF eradication program at a later date.
For more information on spotted lanternfly eradication and control in the United States, see the USDA spotted lanternfly eradication program (May 2015).
Multiple lines of anti-predator defence in the spotted lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula (Hemiptera: Fulgoridae)
These multiple defences may operate in synchrony or separately at different stages of
predation sequence to protect the prey. However, empirical documentation on how multiple …
[HTML] Model-based prediction of potential distribution of the invasive insect pest, spotted lanternfly Lycorma delicatula (Hemiptera: Fulgoridae), by using CLIMEX
required to protect domestic agriculture as this pest causes severe damage to agricultural
crops, such as wilting and sooty mold. This study was designed to confirm the potential …