Now that we’re in September, you may have noticed an increase in sightings of some interesting, flashy-looking insects hanging out in trees or maybe on your doors or windows. Spotted lanternfly is an invasive plant hopper from Asia that can be seen in its adult form below. Spotted lanternfly feeds on the sap of many agricultural crops and hardwood trees but is not harmful to people or animals. (See image below).
The insect was first discovered in the US in 2014 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, and has spread to multiple states, including New Jersey (confirmed in 2018). Sightings have been reported in every New Jersey county and quarantine restrictions have been put in place in 13 counties (Burlington, Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Salem, Somerset, Union, Warren). In quarantine counties, certain materials must be inspected, and precautions taken prior to transport to another county (firewood, landscaping waste, etc.). Spotted lanternfly sightings do not need to be reported for quarantine counties. Sightings in other counties can be reported here: www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/pi/prog/pests-diseases/spotted-lanternfly/#reporting-tool
The spotted lanternfly has various life stages that can be managed via different techniques, but the adults are the ones you should be looking out for in the fall. The NJ Department of Agriculture recommends killing any spotted lanternflies that you see. These insects are strong hoppers and can fly, as well, so getting them on the ground and stepping on them is an effective strategy for killing them, hence the state’s “Stomp Out Spotted Lanternfly” Campaign.
The females will begin to lay egg masses in September, also, so look for a gray or mud-like flat mass on trees 10 feet off the ground or higher (see image below). The egg masses are usually found on trees, but the insects may lay on any outdoor surface such as trash cans, rocks, vehicles, or lawn furniture. In order to remove and kill the egg masses, scrape them off the surface with hard plastic or a putty knife into a plastic bag. The egg masses should be soaked in hand sanitizer/rubbing alcohol and thrown away. Females generally lay the masses from September until December and each female can lay up to two egg masses, so keep scouting!
Spotted lanternflies do not seem to be picky and will feed on the sap of a variety of host plants including trees, vegetables, and vines. Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), is the preferred, possibly required, host of spotted lanternfly (See image below). Tree of heaven is an invasive deciduous tree from Asia that was prized for its fast growth and shade provision in the landscape (below). Unfortunately, the tree has an expansive root system and is a prolific sprouter of suckers, both of which make it difficult to control. The removal of tree of heaven from a property may also result in fewer spotted lanternflies.
Bottom line for spotted lanternfly management in the fall:
• Kill as many as you can
• Scrape and destroy egg masses
• Remove tree of heaven, if possible
Help us stomp out spotted lanternfly!
New Jersey expansion of quarantine counties article
New Jersey Department of Agriculture
Includes general information about spotted lanternfly and resources for both homeowners and businesses.
Penn State Extension
Provides fact sheets and videos for homeowners and agriculture/green industry professionals.
Rutgers Cooperative Extension
Gives an overview of spotted lanternfly, FAQs, and management techniques.
George Hamilton webinar video
Addresses the spotted lanternfly issue in New Jersey as well as management strategies. Presented in September 2021 for Rutgers Cooperative Extension Earth Day at Home webinar series.
Recording link: youtu.be/BecmsIkaKEQ