Spotted Lanternfly Vol. 9, No. 15
Your Extension Experts
September 5, 1997
July 25, 1997
June 23, 1997
May 12, 1997
March 17, 1997
Order: Hemiptera (Homoptera)
Spotted lanternfly (SLF) is one of the latest invasive insects to make its way from Asia to the US. They have been in the country nine years now and were first detected in Pennsylvania in 2014. Since then, they have gradually spread to portions of nine other Northeastern states, including Virginia and North Carolina, and there are isolated, established infestations in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio—one county each.
These are large colorful insects; some would even call them beautiful. Adults are up to an inch long, which is especially large for a leafhopper, and have purple-gray forewings sprinkled with dark spots. The hindwings, which are visible in flight, have patches of bright red. The nymphs are colorful too; early instars are black with small white spots, but the large 4th instar nymphs are red, also covered with small white spots. Damage is caused by both nymphs and adults feeding on shoots and stems with their strong, piercing-sucking mouthparts; larger nymphs can even feed through thin bark. SLF does not feed on fruit; they are strictly sap feeders, but the large amounts of sap they consume results in heavy accumulations of honeydew and sooty mold.
Although SLF has not yet become established in the Deep South, and predictive models based on distribution and weather in its native lands suggest that potential is relatively low, it is still a pest to be aware of. SLF occurs on a wide range of perennial crops, including grapes, hops, fruit trees and hardwoods, and it is predicted to spread throughout the Northeast and, eventually, to California.
This is a pest we will hear a lot more about in coming years, and it certainly could show up here in the state at any time. SLF lay their eggs in flat masses covered with a glue-like substance, and they will stick these egg masses on almost any surface, including vehicles, boxes, plastic yard toys and equipment, and similar items. Egg masses deposited on such items can quickly and unknowingly be transported to other areas of the country.
As with many non-native insects that make their way here without their natural enemies, SLF can build to unusually high populations and heavy feeding by such numbers can damage sensitive crops such as grapes. But the most favored host of spotted lanternfly is another invasive from China known as Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima, also known as Chinese sumac. Although older trees can exceed 50 feet, most trees encountered here will be much smaller. You can identify them by their leaves, which are compound leaves ranging from one to four feet long with rows of 10 to 40 lancehead-shaped leaflets that are arranged opposite each other. They look a lot like sumac or black walnut leaves but are usually considerably longer.
If you encounter Tree of Heaven trees this year, check them out to see if you can find spotted lanternflies, and if you do, please let your County Agent know about it, or contact the Mississippi Department of Agriculture at 662-325-3390. Take a picture or catch the critter if you can. It is important that reports be supported by samples or photos so identification can be confirmed.
See the USDA Spotted Lanternfly Pest Alert for additional information.
Blake Layton, Extension Entomology Specialist, Mississippi State University Extension Service.
The information given here is for educational purposes only. Always read and follow current label directions. Specific commercial products are mentioned as examples only and reference to specific products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended to other products that may also be suitable and appropriately labeled.
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