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Spotted Lanternfly Program Information

spotted lanternfly dorsal viewOn September 22, 2014, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, confirmed the presence the Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula, (WHITE)) in Berks County, Pennsylvania, the first detection of this non-native species in the United States. Upon determination that the potential impact to Pennsylvania's agricultural economy and natural resources was great, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture issued a quarantine with the intent to restrict the movement of the Spotted Lanternfly on November 1, 2014. Counties in eastern Pennsylvania are under limited movement quarantine as the Department and its federal, state, local and non-governmental cooperators develop a strategy to eliminate this pest from the Commonwealth. Up to date maps of the quarantine are available from the side bar: "Lycorma Quarantine Map".

The Spotted Lanternfly is a plant hopper native to China, India and Vietnam, and has been introduced in South Korea and Japan.  In Korea, where it was first detected in 2004, the Spotted Lanternfly is known utilize more than 70 species, 25 of which also occur in Pennsylvania, including cultivated grapes, fruit trees, and hardwood species.  In the U.S., the Spotted Lanternfly has the potential to greatly impact the viticulture (grape), tree fruit, plant nursery and timber industries. This pest poses a significant threat to the state’s more than $28 million grape, $87 million apple, and more than $19 million peach industries, as well as the hardwood industry in Pennsylvania which accounts for nearly $17 billion in sales.

Early detection is vital to the effective control of this pest and the protection of PA agriculture and natural resources-related businesses.

spotted lanternfly egg massIn Pennsylvania, the Spotted Lanternfly overwinters in egg masses laid on smooth bark, stone, and other flat surfaces. The first of four immature stages, or instars, began emerging from the egg masses in mid-May, with a few individuals that had molted to second instar nymphs by the end of May. The first instar nymph is black with white spots and wingless.  As it grows, the Spotted Lanternfly develops red patches in addition to the white spots.  Nymphs spread from the initial site by crawling or jumping up any woody or non-woody plant it comes across to feed.  In Korea, the Spotted Lanternfly is known to gradually prefer Tree-of-Heaven/Paradise Tree (Ailanthus altissima) as it nears the adult stage. 

spotted lanternfly lateral viewAdults can be seen as early as the middle of July and take on a much different appearance.  Adults at rest have a black head and grayish wings with black spots.  The tips of the wings are a combination of black rectangular blocks with grey outlines.  When startled or flying the Spotted Lanternfly will display hind wings that are red at the base and black at the tip with a white stripe dividing them.  The red portion of the wing is also adorned with black spots.  The abdomen is bright to pale yellow with bands of black on the top and bottom surfaces.  While a poor flyer, the Spotted Lanternfly is a strong jumper.

In the fall, adults prefer Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), another introduced invasive species in Pennsylvania, as their primary food source, mating and egg-laying location.  However, Tree of Heaven is not the only tree or surface the Spotted Lanternfly will lay eggs upon – any smooth trunked tree, stone or flat smooth surface can provide a potential host for eggs masses.  Manmade items like vehicles, campers, yard furniture, farm equipment or any other items stored outside are suitable sites for egg laying.  Egg laying begins in late September and continues through late November or early December.

Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), also known as Paradise tree, is a fast growing deciduous tree that is native to China.  It is often found growing in disturbed sites or along roadways where it can establish rapidly.  Ailanthus has smooth, light gray bark with large “palm-like” leaves that can grow up to 3 feet in length.  The leaflets have smooth edges and 2-4 identifying glands on the underside of the leaflet near the stem.  When crushed, the leaves will have a rancid smell often described as “spoiled” or “burnt” peanut butter.  The tree of heaven tends to grow in clumps where many individual stems share one common root system.  Some of these stems may succumb quickly while others may reach a height of 60-80 feet.  Large clusters of blooming yellow-green flowers will hang from the end of new shoots in summer.  Flowers will turn to seeds encased in winged, papery samaras (similar to maple seeds), that are tan to red in color, becoming dry and brown as fall approaches.

Signs and Symptoms:

In the Spring, beginning in late April to mid-May, search for the nymphs on smaller plants and vines, and any new growth on trees and shrubs.  Fruit trees and grapes may be more susceptible to damage and mortality when larger populations of Lanternflies are found nearby.

As the year progresses third and fourth instar nymphs and adults will migrate to Tree of Heaven, as a primary host, and may be seen feeding on the trunk and branches of the tree.  Trees can be afflicted with weeping wounds of sap on the trunks, with heavy populations causing honey dew secretions to build up at the base of the tree, blackening the base of the tree and surrounding soil around the base with sooty mold fungal growth.  Increased activity of wasps, hornets, bees, and ants can be seen feeding on honeydew secretions and at tree wounds.  In large population areas, adults will also be seen feeding on other trees in the surrounding area, including willows, maples, poplars, tulip poplars, birch, ash, and others.

The Spotted Lanternfly begins laying eggs in masses of 30 to 50 eggs, covered in a brown, mud-like substance, in late September or early October.  Egg masses may be found on adult host trees, especially Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus alitissima), moderately-sized stones and other smooth surfaced outdoor items, such as lawn furniture, stone and brick work, and outdoor recreational vehicles.  The egg mass poses, perhaps, the greatest risk for accidental transport of the Spotted Lanternfly to new areas.

PDA Response

An initial delimiting survey was conducted from October 2014 through December 2014 which suggested that the introduction of Spotted Lanternfly was limited to a small area of Eastern Berks County in Pennsylvania, and had likely only been there for a few years. Several businesses operate in the infested area and worked with PDA to provide locations where material might have been moved. These locations were inspected by PDA plant inspectors and their counterparts in other states. No detections were made at these sites. 

PDA has continued to conduct surveys throughout the Commonwealth to determine how far Spotted Lanternfly has spread. 

PDA has held yearly town hall meetings to provide updates to the community and offers all quarantined municipalities the opportunity to have someone speak at municipal meetings.

Federal assistance with the goal of eradication:

The United States Department of Agriculture assembled a new pest advisory group directly after the detection of the spotted lanternfly.  This group meets weekly by teleconference and helps determine the impact of new pests, identifies resources, and offers guidance to a new pest response.  This includes the identification of resources and the formation of a technical working group comprised of plant hopper experts, which is able to answer questions about the pest.  This group has supported Pennsylvania's response by putting the state in touch with resources needed to respond to this new pest.

Since 2014, Pennsylvania has been awarded $5.5 million through the Farm Bill to perform control work, conduct research, and implement outreach to affected citizens. Most of the award was made available to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to implement control and perform survey work.  The rest of the grant has been made available to Kutztown University, Penn State University, and North Carolina State University to conduct research on the pest.  Efforts will focus on identifying the host range of the pest, its impact on grapes, and an analysis of its DNA. A grant to perform outreach and extension was also awarded to Penn State University.

In addition, through the efforts of the technical working group, several important questions are being investigated.  These include testing the effects of chipping woody material on spotted lanternfly egg mass survivorship, the effects of various existing pesticides on immature life stages, and the attractiveness of certain plant volatiles for use in trapping programs.